By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812 - Volume 1
Author: Mahan, A. T. (Alfred Thayer), 1840-1914
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812 - Volume 1" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

       *       *       *       *       *

    | Transcriber's Note:                                       |
    |                                                           |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has     |
    | been preserved.                                           |
    |                                                           |
    | Some footnotes have two anchors in the text, the second   |
    | of these has 'a' appended to distinguish it from the      |
    | first, i.e. [1] and [1a].                                 |
    |                                                           |
    | Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For     |
    | a complete list, please see the end of this document.     |
    |                                                           |

       *       *       *       *       *

    [Illustration: The Impressment of an American Seaman]




United States Navy






The present work concludes the series of "The Influence of Sea Power
upon History," as originally framed in the conception of the author.
In the previous volumes he has had the inspiring consciousness of
regarding his subject as a positive and commanding element in the
history of the world. In the War of 1812, also, the effect is real and
dread enough; but to his own country, to the United States, as a
matter of national experience, the lesson is rather that of the
influence of a negative quantity upon national history. The phrase
scarcely lends itself to use as a title; but it represents the truth
which the author has endeavored to set forth, though recognizing
clearly that the victories on Lake Erie and Lake Champlain do
illustrate, in a distinguished manner, his principal thesis, the
controlling influence upon events of naval power, even when
transferred to an inland body of fresh water. The lesson there,
however, was the same as in the larger fields of war heretofore
treated. Not by rambling operations, or naval duels, are wars decided,
but by force massed, and handled in skilful combination. It matters
not that the particular force be small. The art of war is the same
throughout; and may be illustrated as really, though less
conspicuously, by a flotilla as by an armada; by a corporal's guard,
or the three units of the Horatii, as by a host of a hundred

The interest of the War of 1812, to Americans, has commonly been felt
to lie in the brilliant evidence of high professional tone and
efficiency reached by their navy, as shown by the single-ship actions,
and by the two decisive victories achieved by little squadrons upon
the lakes. Without in the least overlooking the permanent value of
such examples and such traditions, to the nation, and to the military
service which they illustrate, it nevertheless appears to the writer
that the effect may be even harmful to the people at large, if it be
permitted to conceal the deeply mortifying condition to which the
country was reduced by parsimony in preparation, or to obscure the
lessons thence to be drawn for practical application now. It is
perhaps useless to quarrel with the tendency of mankind to turn its
eyes from disagreeable subjects, and to dwell complacently upon those
which minister to self-content. We mostly read the newspapers in which
we find our views reflected, and dispense ourselves easily with the
less pleasing occupation of seeing them roughly disputed; but a writer
on a subject of national importance may not thus exempt himself from
the unpleasant features of his task.

The author has thought it also essential to precede his work by a
somewhat full exposition of the train of causes, which through a long
series of years led to the war. It may seem at first far-fetched to go
back to 1651 for the origins of the War of 1812; but without such
preliminary consideration it is impossible to understand, or to make
due allowance for, the course of Great Britain. It will be found,
however, that the treatment of the earlier period is brief, and only
sufficient for a clear comprehension of the five years of intense
international strain preceding the final rupture; years the full
narrative of which is indispensable to appreciating the grounds and
development of the quarrel,--to realize what they fought each other

That much of Great Britain's action was unjustifiable, and at times
even monstrous, regarded in itself alone, must be admitted; but we
shall ill comprehend the necessity of preparation for war, if we
neglect to note the pressure of emergency, of deadly peril, upon a
state, or if we fail to recognize that traditional habits of thought
constitute with nations, as with individuals, a compulsive moral force
which an opponent can control only by the display of adequate physical
power. Such to the British people was the conviction of their right
and need to compel the service of their native seamen, wherever found
on the high seas. The conclusion of the writer is, that at a very
early stage of the French Revolutionary Wars the United States should
have obeyed Washington's warnings to prepare for war, and to build a
navy; and that, thus prepared, instead of placing reliance upon a
system of commercial restrictions, war should have been declared not
later than 1807, when the news of Jena, and of Great Britain's refusal
to relinquish her practice of impressing from American ships, became
known almost coincidently. But this conclusion is perfectly compatible
with a recognition of the desperate character of the strife that Great
Britain was waging; that she could not disengage herself from it,
Napoleon being what he was; and that the methods which she pursued did
cause the Emperor's downfall, and her own deliverance, although they
were invasions of just rights, to which the United States should not
have submitted.

If war is always avoidable, consistently with due resistance to evil,
then war is always unjustifiable; but if it is possible that two
nations, or two political entities, like the North and South in the
American Civil War, find the question between them one which neither
can yield without sacrificing conscientious conviction, or national
welfare, or the interests of posterity, of which each generation in
its day is the trustee, then war is not justifiable only; it is
imperative. In these days of glorified arbitration it cannot be
affirmed too distinctly that bodies of men--nations--have convictions
binding on their consciences, as well as interests which are vital in
character; and that nations, no more than individuals, may surrender
conscience to another's keeping. Still less may they rightfully
pre-engage so to do. Nor is this conclusion invalidated by a triumph
of the unjust in war. Subjugation to wrong is not acquiescence in
wrong. A beaten nation is not necessarily a disgraced nation; but the
nation or man is disgraced who shirks an obligation to defend right.

From 1803 to 1814 Great Britain was at war with Napoleon, without
intermission; until 1805 single handed, thenceforth till 1812 mostly
without other allies than the incoherent and disorganized mass of the
Spanish insurgents. After Austerlitz, as Pitt said, the map of Europe
became useless to indicate distribution of political power.
Thenceforth it showed a continent politically consolidated, organized
and driven by Napoleon's sole energy, with one aim, to crush Great
Britain; and the Continent of Europe then meant the civilized world,
politically and militarily. How desperate the strife, the author in a
previous work has striven fully to explain, and does not intend here
to repeat. In it Great Britain laid her hand to any weapon she could
find, to save national life and independence. To justify all her
measures at the bar of conventional law, narrowly construed, is
impossible. Had she attempted to square herself to it she would have
been overwhelmed; as the United States, had it adhered rigidly to its
Constitution, must have foregone the purchase of the territories
beyond the Mississippi. The measures which overthrew Napoleon
grievously injured the United States; by international law grievously
wronged her also. Should she have acquiesced? If not, war was
inevitable. Great Britain could not be expected to submit to
destruction for another's benefit.

The author has been indebted to the Officers of the Public Records
Office in London, to those of the Canadian Archives, and to the Bureau
of Historical Research of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, for
kind and essential assistance in consulting papers. He owes also an
expression of personal obligation to the Marquis of Londonderry for
permission to use some of the Castlereagh correspondence, bearing on
the peace negotiations, which was not included in the extensive
published Memoirs and Correspondence of Lord Castlereagh; and to Mr.
Charles W. Stewart, the Librarian of the United States Navy
Department, for inexhaustible patience in searching for, or verifying,
data and references, needed to make the work complete on the naval

                                                 A.T. MAHAN.





Remote origin of the causes of the War of 1812                       1

Two principal causes: impressment and the carrying trade             2

Claim of Great Britain as to impressment                             3

Counter-claim of the United States                                   4

Lack of unanimity among the American people                          5

Prevailing British ideas as to sea power and its relations to
  carrying trade and impressment                                     9

The Navigation Acts                                                 10

Distinction between "Commerce" and "Navigation"                     11

History and development of the Navigation Acts, and of the
  national opinions relating to them                                13

Unanimity of conviction in Great Britain                            22

Supposed benefit to the British carrying trade from loss of the
  American colonies                                                 23

British _entrepôt_ legislation                                      24

Relation of the _entrepôt_ idea to the Orders in Council
  of 1807                                                           27

Colonial monopoly a practice common to all European maritime
  states                                                            27

Effect of the Independence of the United States upon
  traditional commercial prepossessions                             29

Consequent policy of Great Britain                                  29

Commercial development of the British transatlantic colonies
  during the colonial period                                        31

Interrelation of the continental and West India colonies of
 Great Britain                                                      35

Bearing of this upon the Navigation Acts                            36

Rivalry of American-built ships with British navigation during
  the colonial period                                               37

Resultant commercial rivalry after Independence                     40

Consequent disagreements, derived from colonial restrictions,
 and leading to war                                                 41



Rupture of the colonial relation                                    42

Transitional character of the period 1774-1794, to the United
  States                                                            43

Epochal significance of Jay's Treaty                                43

The question of British navigation, as affected by the loss of
  the colonies                                                      45

British commercial expectations from the political weakness of
  the United States, 1783-1789                                      46

System advocated by Lord Sheffield                                  47

Based upon considerations of navigation and naval power             49

Navigation Acts essentially military in purpose                     51

Jefferson's views upon this question                                52

Imperial value of the British Navigation Act before American
  Independence                                                      53

Influence of the inter-colonial trade at the same period            55

Essential rivalry between it and British trade in general           55

Common interest of continental America and of Great Britain in
  the West Indies                                                   56

Pitt's Bill, of March, 1783                                         58

Controversy provoked by it in Great Britain                         60

British jealousy of American navigation                             63

Desire to exclude American navigation from British colonial
  trade                                                             65

Lord Sheffield's pamphlet                                           65

Reply of the West India planters                                    66

Lapse of Pitt's bill                                                67

Navigation Acts applied in full rigor to intercourse between the
 United States and West Indies                                      68

This policy continues till Jay's Treaty                             69

Not a wrong to the United States, though an injury                  70

Naval impotence of the United States                                71

Dependence on Portugal against Barbary pirates                      72

Profit of Great Britain from this impotence                         74

Apparent success of Sheffield's trade policy, 1783-1789             75

Increase of British navigation                                      75

American counteractive legislation after the adoption of the
  Constitution                                                      76

Report of the committee of the British Privy Council on this
  subject, 1790                                                     77

Aggressive spirit of the Navigation Acts                            79

Change of conditions through American navigation laws               80

Recommendations of the British committee                            81

Effects of the French Revolution                                    85

Collapse of French colonial system                                  85

Failure of Sheffield's policy, in supplying the West Indies
  from Canada                                                       86

Great Britain's war necessities require aid of American shipping    86

Her resolve to deprive France of the same aid                       88

Consequent lawless measures towards American ships and commerce     88

Jay's mission.--Impressment not mentioned in his instructions       88



Arbitrary war measures of Great Britain, 1793                       89

Rule of 1756                                                        90

Peculiar relation of the United States to this Rule                 92

Jay's arrival in London                                             93

Characteristics of his negotiations                                 94

Great Britain concedes direct trade with West Indies                95

Rejection of this article by the Senate, on account of
  accompanying conditions                                           96

Concession nevertheless continued by British order                  97

Reasons for this tolerance                                          97

Conditions of trade from Jay's mission to the Peace of 1801         97

No concession of the principle of the Rule of 1756                  98

Renewal of war between Great Britain and France, 1803               99

Prosperity of American commerce                                    100

Question raised of "direct trade"                                  100

Decision in British Admiralty Court adverse to United States,
  1805                                                             101

United States subjected again to colonial regulation               103

Remonstrance and negotiation of Monroe, American Minister in
  London                                                           104

Death of Pitt. Change of ministry in Great Britain. Position of
  Charles James Fox                                                105

Fox's attempt at compromise                                        108

The blockade of May 16, 1806                                       108

Its lawfulness contested by the United States                      110

Its importance in history                                          112

Retaliatory commercial action by the United States                 113

Pinkney sent to England as colleague to Monroe                     113

Colonial trade, and impressment of seamen from American
  vessels, the leading subjects mentioned in their
  instructions                                                     114

Historical summary of the impressment question                     114

Opening of negotiations by Monroe and Pinkney                      128

Death of Fox                                                       131

Course of the negotiations                                         131

Provisional treaty, signed December 31, 1806                       133

Rejected by United States Government                               133

Monroe and Pinkney directed to reopen negotiations                 133

Change of ministry in Great Britain. Canning becomes Foreign
  Secretary                                                        134

The British Government refuses further negotiation                 135

Monroe leaves England, Pinkney remaining as minister               135

"Free Trade and Sailors' Rights"                                   135

Consistency of Jefferson's Administration on the subject of
  impressment                                                      137

It neglects to prepare for war                                     138



Reservation of the British Government in signing the treaty of
  December 31, 1806                                                141

The Berlin Decree                                                  142

Ambiguity of its wording                                           143

The question of "private property," so called, embarked in
  commercial venture at sea. Discussion                            144

Wide political scope of the Berlin Decree                          148

Twofold importance of the United States in international policy    149

Consequent aims of France and Great Britain                        149

British Order in Council of January 7, 1807                        150

Attitude of the United States Government                           152

Military purpose of the Berlin Decree and the Continental System   153

The "Chesapeake" affair                                            155

Conference concerning it between Canning and Monroe                156

Action of President Jefferson                                      160

Use made of it by Canning                                          161

Correspondence concerning the "Chesapeake" affair                  161

Rose appointed envoy to Washington to negotiate a settlement       165

Failure of his mission                                             167

Persistent British refusal to punish the offending officer         169

Significance of the "Chesapeake" affair in the relations of the
 two nations                                                       168

Its analogy to impressment                                         170

Enforcement of the Berlin Decree by Napoleon                       172

Its essential character                                            174

The Decree and the Continental System are supported by the
 course of the American Government                                 175

Pinkney's conviction of Great Britain's peril                      177

The British Orders in Council, November, 1807                      177

Their effect upon the United States                                178

Just resentment in America                                         178

Action of the Administration and Congress                          181

The Embargo Act of December, 1807                                  182

Explanations concerning it to Great Britain                        183

Its intentions, real and alleged                                   185

Its failure, as an alternative to war                              186

Jefferson's aversion to the carrying trade                         187

Growing ill-feeling between the United States and Great Britain    190

Relief to Great Britain from the effects of the Continental
  System, by the Spanish revolt against Napoleon                   191

Depression of United States industries under the Embargo           192

Difficulty of enforcement                                          194

Evasions and smuggling                                             195

The Embargo beneficial to Canada and Nova Scotia                   198

Effects in Great Britain                                           199

Relief to British navigation through the Embargo                   200

Effect of the Embargo upon American revenue                        202

Numbers of American vessels remain abroad, submitting to the
  Orders in Council, and accepting British licenses and British
  convoy                                                           203

Napoleon's Bayonne Decree against them; April 17, 1808             203

Illustrations of the working of Napoleon's Decrees and of the
 Orders in Council                                                 204

Vigorous enforcement of the Embargo in 1808                        206

Popular irritation and opposition                                  207

Act for its further enforcement, January 9, 1809                   208

Evidences of overt resistance to it                                209

Act for partial repeal, introduced February 8                      210

Conflicting opinions as to the Embargo, in and out of Congress     211

The Non-Intercourse Act, March 1, 1809                             214

Its effect upon commercial restrictions                            215

Canning's advances, in consequence of Non-Intercourse Act          215

Instructions sent to Erskine, British Minister at Washington       216

Erskine's misleading communication of them, April 18, 1809         218

Consequent renewal of trade with Great Britain                     219

Erskine disavowed. Non-Intercourse resumed, August 9, 1809         219

Orders in Council of November, 1807, revoked; and substitute
 issued, April 26, 1809                                            220

Consequent partial revival of American commerce                    220

Francis J. Jackson appointed as Erskine's successor                221

His correspondence with the American Secretary of State            222

Further communication with him refused                             225

Criticism of the American side of this correspondence              226

Wellesley succeeds Canning as British Foreign Secretary            229

Jackson's dismissal communicated to Wellesley by Pinkney           229

Wellesley delays action                                            230

British view of the diplomatic situation                           231

Failure of the Non-Intercourse Act                                 232

Difficulty of finding a substitute                                 233

Act of May 1, 1810.--Its provisions                                234

Napoleon's Rambouillet Decree, March 23, 1810                      235

Act of May 1, 1810, communicated to France and Great Britain       236

Napoleon's action. Champagny's letter, August 5, 1810              237

Madison accepts it as revoking the French Decrees                  238

The arguments for and against this interpretation                  239

Great Britain refuses to accept it                                 242

Statement of her position in the matter                            243

Wellesley's procrastinations                                       245

Pinkney states to him the American view, at length, December
  10, 1810                                                         245

Wellesley's reply                                                  246

Inconsistent action of the French Government                       247

Non-Intercourse with Great Britain revived by statute, March
  2, 1811                                                          249

The American Minister withdraws from London, February 28, 1811     251

Non-Intercourse with Great Britain remains in vigor to, and
  during, the war                                                  252

Augustus J. Foster appointed British Minister to the United
  States, February, 1811                                           252

His instructions                                                   253

His correspondence with the Secretary of State                     254

Settlement of the "Chesapeake" affair                              255

The collision between the "President" and the "Little Belt"        256

Special session of Congress summoned                               259

The President's Message to Congress, November 5, 1811              259

Increase of the army voted                                         259

Debate on the navy                                                 260

Congress refuses to increase the navy, January 27, 1812            263

Embargo of ninety days preparatory to war, April 4                 263

The evasions of this measure                                       264

Increasing evidence of the duplicity of Napoleon's action          266

Report of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, March 10, 1812   269

Consequent British declaration                                     270

Use of these papers by Barlow, American Minister to France         271

The spurious French Decree of April 28, 1811, communicated to
  Barlow                                                           272

Communicated to the British Government                             273

Considerations influencing the British Government                  274

The Orders in Council revoked                                      276

Madison sends a war message to Congress, June 1, 1812              279

Declaration of war, June 18, 1812                                  279

Conditions of the army, navy, and treasury                         279



Limitations on American action through deficient sea power         283

Warfare against commerce considered                                284

Its financial and political effects                                285

Its military bearing                                               285

Distinction between military and commercial blockade               286

Commercial blockade identical in essence with commerce-destroying
  by cruisers                                                      287

Recognition of this by Napoleon                                    287

Commerce destruction by blockade the weapon of the stronger
  navy; by cruisers, of the weaker                                 288

Inefficiency of the American Government shown in the want of
 naval preparation                                                 289

Conditions in the army even worse                                  290

Jefferson's sanguine expectations                                  291

Propriety of the invasion of Canada discussed                      292

The United States, weak on the seaboard, relatively strong
 towards Canada                                                    295

Function of the seaboard in the war; defensive                     296

Offensive opportunity essential to any scheme of defence           298

Application of this principle; in general, and to 1812             298

Conditions on the Canada frontier, favoring the offensive by
  the United States                                                300

Importance of the Great Lakes to military operations               301

Over-confidence of Americans                                       303

Corresponding apprehension of British officers                     304

Decisive points on the line between the countries                  305

Importance of the Indians as an element in the situation           306

Proper offensive policy of the United States                       307

Natural advantages favoring the United States                      309

The land frontier the proper scene of American offensive action    310

Seaboard conditions, for offence and defence                       311



Composition of Commodore Rodgers' squadron at outbreak of war      314

Indecisions of the Navy Department                                 315

Question between small squadrons and single cruisers for
  commerce-destroying                                              315

Opinions of prominent officers                                     316

British convoy system for protecting trade                         319

The Navy Department formulates a plan of operations                320

Discussion of its merits                                           321

Rodgers sails without receiving Department's plan                  322

Encounter with the "Belvidera"                                     323

The cruise unproductive, offensively                               324

But not therefore unsuccessful, defensively                        325

Its effect upon the movements of British vessels                   326

The sailing of the "Constitution"                                  328

Chased by a British squadron                                       329

Cruise of the "Constitution" under Hull                            329

Engagement with the "Guerrière"                                    330

Hull and Rodgers meet in Boston                                    335

Misfortune on land                                                 336

Wretched condition of the American army                            336

Appointment of Henry Dearborn and William Hull as generals. Hull
  to command in the Northwest                                      337

Isaac Brock, the British general commanding in Upper Canada        337

His well-considered scheme of operation                            338

Incompetency of the American War Department                        339

Hull takes command at Dayton                                       340

Advances to Detroit                                                341

Crosses to Canada                                                  341

Brock causes seizure of Michilimackinac                            341

Hull's delays in Canada, before Malden                             343

The danger of his position                                         343

The British attack his communications                              345

Hull recrosses to Detroit                                          345

Brock's difficulties                                               346

Moves against Hull, and reaches Malden                             346

Crosses to Detroit, and advances                                   346

Hull surrenders                                                    347

Criticism of his conduct                                           348

Extenuating circumstances                                          349

Ultimate responsibility lies upon the Governments which had been
  in power for ten years                                           350



Brock returns to Niagara from Detroit                              351

Prevost, Governor-General of Canada, arranges with Dearborn a
  suspension of hostilities                                        352

Suspension disapproved by the American Government. Hostilities
  resumed                                                          353

Brock's advantage by control of the water                          353

Two of his vessels on Lake Erie taken from him by Lieutenant
  Elliott, U.S. Navy                                               354

Brock's estimate of this loss                                      356

American attack upon Queenston                                     357

Repulsed, but Brock killed                                         357

Abortive American attack on the Upper Niagara                      358

Inactivity of Dearborn on the northern New York frontier           359

Military inefficiency throughout the United States                 360

Improvement only in the naval situation on the lakes               361

Captain Chauncey appointed to command on Lakes Erie and Ontario    361

His activity and efficiency                                        362

Disadvantages of his naval base, Sackett's Harbor                  363

Chauncey's early operations, November, 1812                        364

Fleet lays up for the winter                                       366

Effect of his first operations                                     366

General Harrison succeeds to Hull's command                        367

Colonel Procter commands the British forces opposed                367

His instructions from Prevost and Brock                            367

Harrison's plan of operations                                      368

The American disaster at Frenchtown                                370

Effect upon Harrison's plans                                       371

The army remains on the defensive, awaiting naval control of
  Lake Erie                                                        371

Chauncey visits Lake Erie                                          374

Disadvantages of Black Rock as a naval station                     374

Chauncey selects Presqu'Isle (Erie) instead                        375

Orders vessels built there                                         375

Advantages and drawbacks of Erie as a naval base                   375

Commander Perry ordered to the lakes                               376

Assigned by Chauncey to command on Lake Erie                       376

Naval conditions on Lakes Erie and Ontario, at close of 1812       377

Contemporary European conditions                                   378

Napoleon's expedition against Russia                               379

Commercial embarrassments of Great Britain                         379

Necessity of American supplies to the British armies in Spain      381

Preoccupation of the British Navy with conditions in Europe and
 the East                                                          382

Consequent embarrassment from the American war                     383

Need of the American market                                        384

Danger to British West India trade from an American war            384

Burden thrown upon the British Admiralty                           385

British anxiety to avoid war                                       385



Consolidation of British transatlantic naval commands              387

Sir John Borlase Warren commander-in-chief                         387

British merchant ships forbidden to sail without convoy            388

Continued hope for restoration of peace                            389

Warren instructed to make propositions                             390

Reply of the American Government                                   391

Cessation of impressment demanded. Negotiation fails               391

Warren's appreciation of the dangers to British commerce           392

Extemporized character of the early American privateering          394

Its activities therefore mainly within Warren's station            394

Cruise of the privateer "Rossie," Captain Barney                   395

Privateering not a merely speculative undertaking                  396

Conditions necessary to its success                                397

Illustrated by the privateer "America"                             398

Comparative immunity of American shipping and commerce at the
  beginning of hostilities                                         399

Causes for this                                                    400

Controversial correspondence between Warren and the Admiralty      401

Policy of the Admiralty. Its effects                               404

American ships of war and privateers gradually compelled to
  cruise in distant seas                                           406

American commerce excluded from the ocean                          406

Sailing of the squadrons of Rodgers and Decatur                    407

Their separation                                                   408

Cruise of Rodgers' squadron                                        409

British licenses to American merchant vessels                      410

Action between the "Wasp" and "Frolic"                             412

Cruise of the "Argus," of Decatur's division                       415

Action between the "United States" and "Macedonian"                416

The "United States" returns with her prize                         422



THE IMPRESSMENT OF AN AMERICAN SEAMAN                   _Frontispiece_
    From a drawing by Stanley M. Arthurs.

GOUVERNEUR MORRIS                                            Page    6
    From the painting by Marchant, after Sully, in Independence
    Hall, Philadelphia.

JOHN JAY                                                     Page   88
    From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in Bedford (Jay) House,
    Katonah, N.Y.

JAMES MONROE                                                 Page  104
    From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in the possession of
    Hon. T. Jefferson Coolidge.

THOMAS JEFFERSON                                             Page  120
    From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in Bowdoin College,
    Brunswick, Me.

JAMES MADISON                                                Page  223
    From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in Bowdoin College,
    Brunswick, Me.

THE CHASE OF THE _Belvidera_                                 Page  322
    From a drawing by Carlton T. Chapman.

THE FORECASTLE OF THE _Constitution_ DURING THE CHASE        Page  328
    From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl.

CAPTAIN ISAAC HULL                                           Page  330
    From the engraving by D. Edwin, after the painting by
    Gilbert Stuart.

THE BURNING OF THE _Guerrière_                               Page  334
    From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl.

CAPTAIN STEPHEN DECATUR                                      Page  420
    From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in Independence Hall,



Theatre of Land and Coast Warfare                          Page  283

The Atlantic Ocean, showing the positions of the Ocean Actions
  of the War of 1812 and the Movements of the Squadrons in
  July and August, 1812                                    Page  326

Plan of the Engagement between the _Constitution_ and
  _Guerrière_                                              Page  332

Map of Lake Frontier to illustrate Campaigns of 1812-1814  Page  370

The Cruises of the Three American Squadrons in the Autumn
  of 1812                                                  Page  408

Plan of the Engagement between the _United States_ and
  _Macedonian_                                             Page  418

Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812




The head waters of the stream of events which led to the War of 1812,
between the United States and Great Britain, must be sought far back
in the history of Europe, in the principles governing commercial,
colonial, and naval policy, accepted almost universally prior to the
French Revolution. It is true that, before that tremendous epoch was
reached, a far-reaching contribution to the approaching change in
men's ideas on most matters touching mercantile intercourse, and the
true relations of man to man, of nation to nation, had been made by
the publication, in 1776, of Adam Smith's "Inquiry into the Nature and
Causes of the Wealth of Nations;" but, as is the case with most marked
advances in the realm of thought, the light thus kindled, though
finding reflection here and there among a few broader intellects, was
unable to penetrate at once the dense surface of prejudice and
conservatism with which the received maxims of generations had
incrusted the general mind. Against such obstruction even the most
popular of statesmen--as the younger Pitt soon after this
became--cannot prevail at once; and, before time permitted the
British people at large to reach that wider comprehension of issues,
whereby alone radical change is made possible, there set in an era of
reaction consequent upon the French Revolution, the excesses of which
involved in one universal discredit all the more liberal ideas that
were leavening the leaders of mankind.

The two principal immediate causes of the War of 1812 were the
impressment of seamen from American merchant ships, upon the high
seas, to serve in the British Navy, and the interference with the
carrying trade of the United States by the naval power of Great
Britain. For a long time this interference was confined by the British
Ministry to methods which they thought themselves able to defend--as
they did the practice of impressment--upon the ground of rights,
prescriptive and established, natural or belligerent; although the
American Government contended that in several specific measures no
such right existed,--that the action was illegal as well as
oppressive. As the war with Napoleon increased in intensity, however,
the exigencies of the struggle induced the British cabinet to
formulate and enforce against neutrals a restriction of trade which it
confessed to be without sanction in law, and justified only upon the
plea of necessary retaliation, imposed by the unwarrantable course of
the French Emperor. These later proceedings, known historically as the
Orders in Council,[1] by their enormity dwarfed all previous causes of
complaint, and with the question of impressment constituted the vital
and irreconcilable body of dissent which dragged the two states into
armed collision. Undoubtedly, other matters of difficulty arose from
time to time, and were productive of dispute; but either they were of
comparatively trivial importance, easily settled by ordinary
diplomatic methods, or there was not at bottom any vital difference as
to principle, but only as to the method of adjustment. For instance,
in the flagrant and unpardonable outrage of taking men by force from
the United States frigate "Chesapeake," the British Government,
although permitted by the American to spin out discussion over a
period of four years, did not pretend to sustain the act itself; the
act, that is, of searching a neutral ship of war. Whatever the motive
of the Ministry in postponing redress, their pretexts turned upon
points of detail, accessory to the main transaction, or upon the
subsequent course of the United States Government, which showed
conscious weakness by taking hasty, pettish half-measures; instead of
abstaining from immediate action, and instructing its minister to
present an ultimatum, if satisfaction were shirked.

In the two causes of the war which have been specified, the difference
was fundamental. Whichever was right, the question at stake was in
each case one of principle, and of necessity. Great Britain never
claimed to impress American seamen; but she did assert that her
native-born subjects could never change their allegiance, that she had
an inalienable right to their service, and to seize them wherever
found, except within foreign territory. From an admitted premise, that
the open sea is common to all nations, she deduced a common
jurisdiction, in virtue of which she arrested her vagrant seamen. This
argument of right was reinforced by a paramount necessity. In a life
and death struggle with an implacable enemy, Great Britain with
difficulty could keep her fleet manned at all; even with indifferent
material. The deterioration in quality of her ships' companies was
notorious; and it was notorious also that numerous British seamen
sought employment in American merchant ships, hoping there to find
refuge from the protracted confinement of a now dreary maritime war.
Resort to impressment was not merely the act of a high-handed
Government, but the demand of both parties in the state, coerced by
the sentiment of the people, whose will is ultimately irresistible. No
ministry could hope to retain power if it surrendered the claim to
take seamen found under a neutral flag. This fact was thoroughly
established in a long discussion with United States plenipotentiaries,
five years before the war broke out.

On the other hand, the United States maintained that on the sea common
the only jurisdiction over a ship was that of its own nation. She
could not admit that American vessels there should be searched, for
other purposes than those conceded to the belligerent by international
law; that is, in order to determine the nature of the voyage, to
ascertain whether, by destination, by cargo, or by persons carried,
the obligations of neutrality were being infringed. If there was
reasonable cause for suspicion, the vessel, by accepted law and
precedent, might be sent to a port of the belligerent, where the
question was adjudicated by legal process; but the actual captor could
not decide it on the spot. On the contrary, he was bound, to the
utmost possible, to preserve from molestation everything on board the
seized vessel; in order that, if cleared, the owner might undergo no
damage beyond the detention. So deliberate a course was not suited to
the summary methods of impressment, nor to the urgent needs of the
British Navy. The boarding officer, who had no authority to take away
a bale of goods, decided then and there whether a man was subject to
impressment, and carried him off at once, if he so willed.

It is to the credit of the American Government under Jefferson, that,
though weak in its methods of seeking redress, it went straight back
of the individual sufferer, and rested its case unswervingly on the
broad principle.[2] That impressment, thus practised, swept in
American seamen, was an incident only, although it grievously
aggravated the injury. Whatever the native allegiance of individuals
on board any vessel on the open ocean, their rights were not to be
regulated by the municipal law of the belligerent, but by that of the
nation to which the ship belonged, of whose territory she was
constructively a part, and whose flag therefore was dishonored, if
acquiescence were yielded to an infringement of personal liberty,
except as conceded by obligations of treaty, or by the general law of
nations. Within British waters, the United States suffered no wrong by
the impressment of British subjects--the enforcement of local
municipal law--on board American vessels; and although it was
suggested that such visits should not be made, and that an arriving
crew should be considered to have the nationality of their ship, this
concession, if granted, would have been a friendly limitation by Great
Britain of her own municipal jurisdiction. It therefore could not be
urged upon the British Government by a nation which took its stand
resolutely upon the supremacy of its own municipal rights, on board
its merchant shipping on the high seas.

It is to be noted, furthermore, that the voice of the people in the
United States, the pressure of influence upon the Government, was not
as unanimous as that exerted upon the British Ministry. The feeling of
the country was divided; and, while none denied the grievous wrong
done when an American was impressed, a class, strong at least in
intellectual power, limited its demands to precautions against such
mistakes and to redress when they occurred. The British claim to
search, with the object of impressing British subjects, was considered
by these men to be valid. Thus Gouverneur Morris, who on a
semi-official visit to London in 1790 had had occasion to remonstrate
upon the impressment of Americans in British ports, and who, as a
pamphleteer, had taken strong ground against the measures of the
British Government injurious to American commerce, wrote as follows in
1808 about the practice of seizing British subjects in American ships:
"That we, the people of America, should engage in ruinous warfare to
support a rash opinion, that foreign sailors in our merchant ships are
to be protected against the power of their sovereign, is downright
madness." "Why not," he wrote again in 1813, while the war was raging,
"waiving flippant debate, lay down the broad principle of national
right, on which Great Britain takes her native seamen from our
merchant ships? Let those who deny the right pay, suffer, and fight,
to compel an abandonment of the claim. Men of sound mind will see, and
men of sound principle will acknowledge, its existence." In his
opinion, there was but one consistent course to be pursued by those
who favored the war with Great Britain, which was to insist that she
should, without compensation, surrender her claim. "If that ground be
taken," he wrote, "the war [on our part] will be confessedly, as it is
now impliedly, unjust."[3] Morris was a man honorably distinguished in
our troubled national history--a member of the Congress of the
Revolution and of the Constitutional Convention, a trained lawyer, a
practised financier, and an experienced diplomatist; one who
throughout his public life stood high in the estimation of Washington,
with whom he was in constant official and personal correspondence. It
is to be added that those to whom he wrote were evidently in sympathy
with his opinions.

    [Illustration: GOUVERNEUR MORRIS
    From the painting by Marchant, after Sully, in Independence
    Hall, Philadelphia.]

So again Representative Gaston, of North Carolina, a member of the
same political party as Morris, speaking from his seat in the House in
February, 1814,[4] maintained the British doctrine of inalienable
allegiance. "Naturalization granted in another country has no effect
whatever to destroy the original primary allegiance." Even
Administration speakers did not deny this, but they maintained that
the native allegiance could be enforced only within its territorial
limits, not on the high seas. While perfectly firm and explicit as to
the defence of American seamen,--even to the point of war, if
needful,--Gaston spoke of the British practice as a right. "If you
cannot by substitute obtain an abandonment of the right, or practice,
to search our vessels, regulate it so as to prevent its abuse; waiving
for the present, not relinquishing, your objections to it." He
expressed sympathy, too, for the desperate straits in which Great
Britain found herself. "At a time when her floating bulwarks were her
whole safeguard against slavery, she could not view without alarm and
resentment the warriors who should have manned those bulwarks pursuing
a more gainful occupation in American vessels. Our merchant ships were
crowded with British seamen, most of them deserters from their ships
of war, and all furnished with fraudulent protections to prove them
Americans. To us they were not necessary." On the contrary, "they ate
the bread and bid down the wages of native seamen, whom it was our
first duty to foster and encourage." This competition with native
seamen was one of the pleas likewise of the New England opposition,
too much of which was obstinately and reprehensibly factious. "Many
thousands of British seamen," said Governor Strong of Massachusetts,
in addressing the Legislature, May 28, 1813, "deserted that service
for a more safe and lucrative employment in ours." Had they not, "the
high price for that species of labor would soon have induced a
sufficient number of Americans to become seamen. It appears,
therefore, that British seamen have been patronized at the expense of
our own; and should Great Britain now consent to relinquish the _right
of taking her own subjects_, it would be no advantage to our native
seamen; it would only tend to reduce their wages by increasing the
numbers of that class of men."[5] Gaston further said, that North
Carolina, though not a commercial state, had many native seamen; but,
"at the moment war was declared, though inquiry was made, I could not
hear of a single native seaman detained by British impressment."

It is desirable, especially in these days, when everything is to be
arbitrated, that men should recognize both sides of this question, and
realize how impossible it was for either party to acquiesce in any
other authority than their own deciding between them. "As I never had
a doubt," said Morris, "so I thought it a duty to express my
conviction that British ministers would not, _dared not_, submit to
mediation a question of essential right."[6] "The way to peace is open
and clear," he said the following year. "Let the right of search and
impressment be acknowledged as maxims of public law."[7]

These expressions, uttered in the freedom of private correspondence,
show a profound comprehension of the constraint under which the
British Government and people both lay. It was impossible, at such a
moment of extreme national peril, to depart from political convictions
engendered by the uniform success of a policy followed consistently
for a hundred and fifty years. For Great Britain, the time had long
since passed into a dim distance, when the national appreciation of
the sea to her welfare was that of mere defence, as voiced by

        England, hedged in with the main,
    That water-walled bulwark, still secure
    And confident from foreign purposes.[8]

              This little world,
    This precious stone set in the silver sea,
    Which serves it in the office of a wall,
    Or as a moat defensive to a house
    Against the envy of less happier lands.[9]

By the middle of the seventeenth century, the perception of Great
Britain's essential need to predominate upon the sea had dawned upon
men's minds, and thence had passed from a vague national consciousness
to a clearly defined national line of action, adopted first through a
recognition of existing conditions of inferiority, but after these had
ceased pursued without any change of spirit, and with no important
changes of detail. This policy was formulated in a series of measures,
comprehensively known as the Navigation Acts, the first of which was
passed in 1651, during Cromwell's Protectorate. In 1660, immediately
after the Restoration, it was reaffirmed in most essential features,
and thenceforward continued to and beyond the times of which we are
writing. In form a policy of sweeping protection, for the development
of a particular British industry,--the carrying trade,--it was soon
recognized that, in substance, its success had laid the foundations of
a naval strength equally indispensable to the country. Upon this
ground it was approved even by Adam Smith, although in direct
opposition to the general spirit of his then novel doctrine. While
exposing its fallacies as a commercial measure, he said it exemplified
one of two cases in which protective legislation was to be justified.
"The defence of Great Britain, for example, depends very much upon the
number of its sailors and shipping. The Act of Navigation therefore
very properly endeavors to give the sailors and shipping of Great
Britain the monopoly of the trade of their own country.... It is not
impossible that some of the regulations of this famous Act may have
proceeded from national animosity. They are as wise, however, as
though they had all been dictated by the most deliberate wisdom....
The Act is not favorable to foreign commerce, nor to the opulence
which can arise from that; but defence is of much more importance than
opulence. The Act of Navigation is perhaps the wisest of all the
commercial regulations of England."[10] It became a dominant
prepossession of British statesmen, even among Smith's converts, in
the conduct of foreign relations, that the military power of the state
lay in the vast resources of native seamen, employed in its merchant
ships. Even the wealth returned to the country, by the monopoly of the
imperial markets, and by the nearly exclusive possession of the
carrying trade, which was insured to British commerce by the elaborate
regulations of the Act, was thought of less moment. "Every commercial
consideration has been repeatedly urged," wrote John Adams, the first
United States Minister to Great Britain, "but to no effect; seamen,
the Navy, and power to strike an awful blow to an enemy at the first
outbreak of war, are the ideas which prevail."[11] This object, and
this process, are familiar to us in these later days under the term
"mobilization;" the military value of which, if rapidly effected, is
well understood.

In this light, and in the light of the preceding experience of a
hundred and fifty years, we must regard the course of the British
Ministry through that period, extremely critical to both nations,
which began when our War of Independence ended, and issued in the War
of 1812. We in this day are continually told to look back to our
fathers of the Revolutionary period, to follow their precepts, to
confine ourselves to the lines of their policy. Let us then either
justify the British ministries of Pitt and his successors, in their
obstinate adherence to the traditions they had received, or let us
admit that even ancestral piety may be carried too far, and that
venerable maxims must be brought to the test of existing conditions.

The general movement of maritime intercourse between countries is
commonly considered under two principal heads: Commerce and
Navigation. The first applies to the interchange of commodities,
however effected; the second, to their transportation from port to
port. A nation may have a large commerce, of export and import,
carried in foreign vessels, and possess little shipping of its own.
This is at present the condition of the United States; and once, in
far gone days, it was in great measure that of England. In such case
there is a defect of navigation, consequent upon which there will be a
deficiency of native seamen; of seamen attached to the country and its
interests, by ties of birth or habit. For maritime war such a state
will have but small resources of adaptable naval force; a condition
dangerous in proportion to its dependence upon control of the sea.
Therefore the attention of British statesmen, during the period in
which the Navigation Act flourished, fastened more and more upon the
necessity of maintaining the navigation of the kingdom, as
distinguished from its commerce. Subsidiary to the movement of
commerce, there is a third factor, relatively stationary, the
consideration of which is probably less familiar now than it was to
the contemporaries of the Navigation Act, to whom it was known under
the name _entrepôt_. This term was applied to those commercial
centres--in this connection maritime centres--where goods accumulate
on their way to market; where they are handled, stored, or
transshipped. All these processes involve expenditure, which inures to
the profit of the port, and of the nation; the effect being the exact
equivalent of the local gains of a railroad centre of the present day.
It was a dominant object with statesmen of the earlier period to draw
such accumulations of traffic to their own ports, or nations; to force
trade, by ingenious legislation, or even by direct coercion, to bring
its materials to their own shores, and there to yield to them the
advantages of the _entrepôt_. Thus the preamble to one of the series
of Navigation Acts states, as a direct object, the "making this
Kingdom a staple[12] [emporium], not only of the commodities of our
plantations, but also of the commodities of other countries, and
places, for the supply of the plantations."[13] An instructive example
of such indirect effort was the institution of free ports; ports
which, by exemption from heavy customary tolls, or by the admission of
foreign ships or goods, not permitted entrance to other national
harbors, invited the merchant to collect in them, from surrounding
regions, the constituents of his cargoes. On the other hand, the
Colonial System, which began to assume importance at the time of the
Navigation Act, afforded abundant opportunity for the compulsion of
trade. Colonies being part of the mother country, and yet transoceanic
with reference to her, maritime commerce between them and foreign
communities could by direct legislation be obliged first to seek the
parent state, which thus was made the distributing centre for both
their exports and imports.

For nearly three centuries before the decisive measures taken by the
Parliament of the Commonwealth, the development and increase of
English shipping, by regulation of English trade, had been recognized
as a desirable object by many English rulers. The impulse had taken
shape in various enactments, giving to English vessels privileges,
exclusive or qualified, in the import or export carriage of the
kingdom; and it will readily be understood that the matter appeared of
even more pressing importance, when the Navy depended upon the
merchant service for ships, as well as for men; when the war fleets of
the nation were composed of impressed ships, as well as manned by
impressed sailors. These various laws had been tentative in character.
Both firmness of purpose and continuity of effort were lacking to
them; due doubtless to the comparative weakness of the nation in the
scale of European states up to the seventeenth century. During the
reigns of the first two Stuarts, this weakness was emphasized by
internal dissensions; but the appreciation of the necessity for some
radical remedy to the decay of English naval power remained and
increased. To this conviction the ship-money of Charles the First
bears its testimony; but it was left to Cromwell and his associates to
formulate the legislation, upon which, for two centuries to come, the
kingdom was thought to depend, alike for the growth of its merchant
shipping and for the maintenance of the navy. All that preceded has
interest chiefly as showing the origin and growth of an enduring
national conviction, with which the United States came into collision
immediately after achieving independence.

The ninth of October, 1651, is the date of the passing of the Act, the
general terms of which set for two hundred years the standard for
British legislation concerning the shipping industry. The title of the
measure, "Goods from foreign ports, by whom to be imported," indicated
at once that the object in view was the carrying trade; navigation,
rather than commerce. Commerce was to be manipulated and forced into
English bottoms as an indispensable agency for reaching British
consumers. At this time less than half a century had elapsed since the
first English colonists had settled in Massachusetts and Virginia. The
British plantation system was still in its beginnings, alike in
America, Asia, and Africa. When the then recent Civil War ended, in
the overthrow of the royal power, it had been "observed with concern
that the merchants of England had for several years usually freighted
Dutch ships for fetching home their merchandise, because the freights
were lower than in English ships. Dutch ships, therefore, were used
for importing our own American products, while English ships lay
rotting in harbor."[14] "Notwithstanding the regulations made for
confining that branch of navigation to the mother country, it is said
that in the West India Islands there used, at this time, out of forty
ships to be thirty-eight ships Dutch bottoms."[15] English mariners
also, for want of employment, went into the Dutch service. In this way
seamen for the navy disappeared, just as, at a later day, they did
into the merchant shipping of the United States.

The one great maritime rival of England, Holland, had thus engrossed,
not only the carrying trade of Europe at large, most of which, from
port to port, was done by her seamen, but that of England as well.
Even of the English coasting trade much was done by Dutch ships. Under
this competition, the English merchant marine was dwindling, and had
become so inadequate that, when the exclusion of foreigners was
enforced by the Act, the cry at once arose in the land that the
English shipping was not sufficient for the work thus thrust upon it.
"Although our own people have not shipping enough to import from all
parts what they want, they are needlessly debarred from receiving new
supplies of merchandise from other nations, who alone can, and until
now did, import it."[16] The effect of this decadence of shipping upon
the resources of men for the navy is apparent.

The existence of strained relations between England and Holland
facilitated the adoption of the first Navigation Act, which, as things
were, struck the Dutch only; they being the one great carrying
community in Europe. Although both the letter and the purpose of the
new law included in its prohibitions all foreign countries, the
commercial interests of other states were too slight, and their
commercial spirit too dull, to take note of the future effect upon
themselves; whether absolutely, or in relation to the maritime power
of Great Britain, the cornerstone of which was then laid. This first
Act directed that no merchandise from Asia, Africa, or America,
including therein English "plantations," as the colonies were then
styled,[17] should be imported into England in other than
English-built ships, belonging to English subjects, and of which "the
master and mariners are also, for the most part of them, of the people
of this commonwealth." This at once reserved a large part of the
external trade to English ships; and also, by the regulation of the
latter, constituted them a nursery for English seamen. To the general
tenor of this clause, confining importation wholly to English vessels,
an exception was made for Europe only; importations from any part of
which was permitted to "such foreign ships and vessels as do truly and
properly belong to the people of that country or place of which the
said goods are the growth, production, or manufacture."[18] Foreign
merchantmen might therefore import into England the products of their
own country; but both they and English vessels must ship such cargoes
in the country of origin, not at any intermediate port. The purpose of
these provisos, especially of the second, was to deprive Holland of
the profit of the middleman, or the _entrepôt_, which she had enjoyed
hitherto by importing to herself from various regions, warehousing the
goods, and then re-exporting. The expense of these processes, pocketed
by Dutch handlers, and the exaction of any dues levied by the Dutch
Treasury, reappeared in increased cost to foreign consumers. This
appreciation of the value of the _entrepôt_ underlay much of the
subsequent colonial regulation of England, and actuated the famous
Orders in Council of 1807, which were a principal factor in causing
the War of 1812. A second effect of these restrictions, which in later
times was deemed even more important than the pecuniary gain, was to
compel English ships to go long voyages, to the home countries of the
cargoes they sought, instead of getting them near by in Dutch depots.
This gave a corresponding development to the carrying trade--the
navigation--of the Commonwealth; securing greater employment for ships
and seamen, increasing both their numbers and experience, and
contributing thereby to the resources of the navy in men. "A
considerable carrying trade would be lost to us, and would remain with
the merchants of Holland, of Hamburg, and other maritime towns, if our
merchants were permitted to furnish themselves by short voyages to
those neighboring ports, and were not compelled to take upon
themselves the burden of bringing these articles from the countries
where they were produced."[19]

The Act of 1660, officially known as that of 12 Charles II., modified
the provisos governing the European trade. The exclusion of goods of
European origin from all transportation to England, save in ships of
their own nation, was to some extent removed. This surrender was
censured by some, explicitly, because it again enabled the Dutch to
collect foreign articles and send them to England, thereby "permitting
competition with this country in the longer part of the voyage;" to
the injury, therefore, of British navigation. The remission, though
real, was less than appeared; for the prohibitions of the Commonwealth
were still applied to a large number of specified articles, the
produce chiefly of Russia and Turkey, which could be imported only in
their national ships, or those of England. As those countries had
substantially no long voyage shipping, trade with them was to all
practical purposes confined to English vessels.[20] The concession to
foreign vessels, such as it was, was further qualified by heavier
duties, called aliens' duties, upon their cargoes; and by the
requirement that three-fourths of their crew, entering English ports,
should be of the same nationality as the ship. The object of this
regulation was to prevent the foreign state from increasing its
tonnage, by employing seamen other than its own. This went beyond mere
protection of English vessels, and was a direct attack, though by
English municipal law, upon the growth of foreign shipping.

This purpose indeed was authoritatively announced from the bench,
construing the Act in the decision of a specific case. "Parliament had
wisely foreseen that, if they restrained the importation or
exportation of European goods, unless in our own ships, and manned
with our own seamen, other states would do the same; and this, in its
consequences, would amount to a prohibition of all such goods, which
would be extremely detrimental to trade, and in the end defeat the
very design of the Act. It was seen, however, that many countries in
Europe, as France, Spain, and Italy, could more easily buy ships than
build them; that, on the other hand, countries like Russia, and others
in the North, had timber and materials enough for building ships, but
wanted sailors. It was from a consideration of this inaptness in most
countries to accomplish a complete navigation, that the Parliament
prohibited the importation of most European goods, unless in ships
owned and navigated by English, or in ships of the _build of_ and
manned by sailors of that country of which the goods were the growth.
The consequence would be that foreigners could not make use of ships
they bought, though English subjects might. This would force them to
have recourse to our shipping, and the general intent of the Act, to
secure the carrying trade to the English, would be answered as far as
it possibly could." It was therefore ruled that the tenor of the Act
forbade foreigners to import to England in ships not of their own
building; and, adds the reporter, "This exposition of the Act of
Navigation is certainly the true one."[21] Having thus narrowed
foreign competition to the utmost extent possible to municipal
statutes, Parliament made the carrying industry even more exclusively
than before a preserve for native seamen. The Commonwealth's
requirement, that "the most" of the crew should be English, was
changed to a definite prescription that the master and three-fourths
of the mariners should be so.

Under such enactments, with frequent modification of detail, but no
essential change of method, British shipping and seamen continued to
be "protected" against foreign competition down to and beyond the War
of 1812. In this long interval there is no change of conception, nor
any relaxation of national conviction. The whole history affords a
remarkable instance of persistent policy, pursued consecutively for
five or six generations. No better evidence could be given of its hold
upon the minds of the people, or of the serious nature of the obstacle
encountered by any other state that came into collision with it; as
the United States during the Napoleonic period did, in matters of
trade and carriage, but especially in the closely related question of

Whether the Navigation Act, during its period of vigor, was successful
in developing the British mercantile marine and supporting the British
Navy has been variously argued. The subsequent growth of British
navigation is admitted; but whether this was the consequence of the
measure itself has been disputed. It appears to the writer that those
who doubt its effect in this respect allow their convictions of the
strength of economical forces to blind them to the power of
unremitting legislative action. To divert national activities from
natural channels into artificial may be inexpedient and wasteful; and
it may be reasonable to claim that ends so achieved are not really
successes, but failures. Nevertheless, although natural causes, till
then latent, may have conspired to further the development which the
Navigation Act was intended to promote, and although, since its
abolition, the same causes may have sufficed to sustain the imposing
national carrying trade built up during its continuance, it is
difficult to doubt the great direct influence of the Act itself;
having in view the extent of the results, as well as the corroborative
success of modern states in building up and maintaining other
distinctly artificial industries, sometimes to the injury of the
natural industries of other peoples, which the Navigation Act also in
its day was meant to effect.

The condition of British navigation in 1651 has been stated. The
experience of the remaining years of the Protectorate appears to have
confirmed national opinion as to the general policy of the Act, and to
have suggested the modifications of the Restoration. To trace the full
sequence of development, in legislation or in shipping, is not here
permissible; the present need being simply to give an account, and an
explanation, of the strength of a national prepossession, which in its
manifestation was a chief cause of the events that are the theme of
this book. A few scattered details, taken casually, seem strikingly to
sustain the claims of the advocates of the system, bearing always in
mind the depression of the British shipping industry before the
passage of the law. In 1728 there arrived in London from all parts
beyond sea 2052 ships, of which only 213 were under foreign flags;
less than one in nine. In Liverpool, in 1765, of 1533 entered and
cleared, but 135 were foreign; in Bristol, the same year, of 701 but
91 foreign. Of the entire import of that year only 28 per cent, in
money value, came from Europe; the carriage of the remaining 72 per
cent was confined to British ships. It may, of course, be maintained
that this restriction of shipping operated to the disadvantage of the
commerce of the kingdom; that there was direct pecuniary loss. This
would not be denied, for the object of the Act was less national gain
than the upbuilding of shipping as a resource for the navy.
Nevertheless, at this same period, in 1764, of 810 ships entering the
great North German commercial centre, Hamburg, 267--over
one-third--were British; the Dutch but 146, the Hamburgers themselves
157. A curious and suggestive comparison is afforded by the same port
in 1769. From the extensive, populous, and fruitful country of France,
the _entrepôt_ of the richest West Indian colony, Santo Domingo, there
entered Hamburg 203 ships, of which not one was French; whereas from
Great Britain there came a slightly larger total, 216, of which 178
were British.

Such figures seem to substantiate the general contemporary opinion of
the efficacy of the Navigation Act, and to support the particular
claim of a British writer of the day, that the naval weakness of
Holland and France was due to the lack of similar measures. "The Dutch
have indeed pursued a different policy, but they have thereby fallen
to a state of weakness, which is now the object of pity, or of
contempt. It was owing to the want of sailors, and not to the fault of
their officers, that the ten ships of the line, which during their
late impudent quarrel with Britain had been stipulated to join the
French fleet, never sailed."[22] "The French Navy, which at all times
depended chiefly upon the West India trade for a supply of seamen,
must have been laid up, if the war (of American Independence) had
continued another year."[23] Whatever the accuracy of these
statements,[24]--and they are those of a well-informed man,--they
represented a general conviction, not in Great Britain only but in
Europe, of the results of the Navigation legislation. A French writer
speaks of it as the source of England's greatness,[25] and sums up his
admiration in words which recognize the respective shares of natural
advantages and sagacious supervision in the grand outcome. "Called to
commerce by her situation, it became the spirit of her government and
the lever of her ambition. In other monarchies, it is private
individuals who carry on commerce; but in that happy constitution it
is the state, or the nation in its entirety."

In Great Britain itself there was substantial unanimity. This colored
all its after policy towards its lately rebellious and now independent
children, who as carriers had revived the once dreaded rivalry of the
Dutch. To quote one writer, intimately acquainted with the whole
theory and practice of the Navigation Acts, they "tend to the
establishment of a monopoly; but our ancestors ... considered the
defence of this island from foreign invasion as the first law in the
national policy. Judging that the dominion of the land could not be
preserved without possessing that of the sea, they made every effort
to procure to the nation a maritime power of its own. They wished that
the merchants should own as many ships, and employ as many mariners as
possible. To induce, and sometimes to force, them to this application
of their capital, restrictions and prohibitions were devised. The
interests of commerce were often sacrificed to this object." Yet he
claims that in the end commerce also profited, for "the increase in
the number of ships became a spur to seek out employment for them." In
1792, British registered shipping amounted to 1,365,000 tons,
employing 80,000 seamen. Of these, by common practice, two-thirds--say
50,000--were available for war, during which it was the rule to relax
the Act so far as to require only one-fourth of the crew to be
British. "That the increase in our shipping is to be ascribed to our
navigation system appears in the application of it to the trade of the
United States. When those countries were part of our plantations, a
great portion of our produce was transported to Great Britain and our
West India Islands in American bottoms; they had a share in the
freight of sugars from those islands to Great Britain; they built
annually more than one hundred ships, which were employed in the
carrying trade of Great Britain; but since the Independence of those
states, since their ships have been excluded from our plantations, and
that trade is wholly confined to British ships, we have gained that
share of our carrying trade from which they are now excluded."[26] In
corroboration of the same tendency, it was also noted during the war
with the colonies, that "the shipyards of Britain in every port were
full of employment, so that new yards were set up in places never
before so used."[27] That is, the war, stopping the intrusion of
American colonists into the British carrying trade, just as the
Navigation Act prohibited that of foreign nations, created a demand
for British ships to fill the vacancy; a result perfectly in keeping
with the whole object of the navigation system. But when hostilities
with France began again in 1793, and lasted with slight intermission
for twenty years, the drain of the navy for seamen so limited the
development of the British navigation as to afford an opening for
competition, of which American maritime aptitude took an advantage,
threatening British supremacy and arousing corresponding jealousy.

Besides the increase of national shipping, the idea of _entrepôt_
received recognition in both the earlier and later developments of the
system. Numerous specified articles, produced in English colonies,
could be carried nowhere but to England, Ireland, or another colony,
where they must be landed before going farther. Because regularly
listed, such articles were technically styled "enumerated;"
"enumerated commodities being such as must first be landed in England
before being taken to foreign parts."[28] From this privilege Ireland
was soon after excepted; enumerated goods for that country having
first to be landed in England.[29] Among such enumerated articles,
tobacco and rice held prominent places and illustrate the system. Of
the former, in the first half of the eighteenth century, it was
estimated that on an average seventy-two million pounds were sent
yearly to England, of which fifty-four million were re-exported; an
export duty of sixpence per pound being then levied, besides the cost
of handling. Rice, made an enumerated article in 1705, exemplifies
aptly the ideas which influenced the multifold manipulation of the
nation's commerce in those days. The restriction was removed in 1731,
so far as to permit this product to be sent direct from South Carolina
and Georgia to any part of Europe south of Cape Finisterre; but only
in British ships navigated according to the Act. In this there is a
partial remission of the _entrepôt_ exaction, while the nursing of the
carrying trade is carefully guarded. The latter was throughout the
superior interest, inseparably connected in men's minds with the
support of the navy. At a later date, West India sugar received the
same indulgence as rice; it being found that the French were gaining
the general European market, by permitting French vessels to carry the
products of their islands direct to foreign continental ports. Rice
and sugar for northern Europe, however, still had to be landed in
England before proceeding.

The colonial trade in general was made entirely subservient to the
support and development of English shipping, and to the enrichment of
England, as the half-way storehouse. Into England foreign goods could
be imported in some measure by foreign vessels, though under marked
restrictions and disabilities; but into the colonies it was early
forbidden to import any goods, whatever their origin, except in
English-built ships, commanded and manned in accordance with the Act.
Further, even in such ships they must be imported from England itself,
not direct; not from the country of origin. The motive for this
statute of 1663[30] is avowed in the preamble: to be with a view of
maintaining a greater correspondence and kindness between them and the
mother country, keeping the former in a firmer dependence upon the
latter, and to make this kingdom the staple both of the commodities of
the plantations, and of other countries in order to supply them.
Further, it was alleged that it was the usage of nations to keep their
plantation trade to themselves.[31] In compensation for this
subjection of their trade to the policy of the mother country, the
supplying of the latter with West India products was reserved to the

Thus, goods for the colonies, as well as those from the colonies, from
or to a foreign country,--from or to France, for example,--must first
be landed in England before proceeding to the ultimate destination.
Yet even this cherished provision, enforced against the foreigner, was
made to subserve the carrying trade--the leading object; for, upon
re-exportation to the colonies, there was allowed a drawback of duties
paid upon admission to England, and permanent upon residents there.
The effect of this was to make the articles cheaper in the colonies
than in England itself, and so to induce increased consumption. It was
therefore to the profit of the carrier; and the more acceptable,
because the shipping required to bring home colonial goods was much in
excess of that required for outward cargoes, to the consequent
lowering of outward freights. "A regard to the profits of freights,"
writes a contemporary familiar with the subject, "as much as the
augmentation of seamen, dictated this policy."[32] From the
conditions, it did not directly increase the number of seamen; but by
helping the shipping merchant it supported the carrying industry as a

Upon the legislative union of Scotland with England, in 1707, this
_entrepôt_ privilege, with all other reserved advantages of English
trade and commerce, was extended to the northern kingdom, and was a
prominent consideration in inducing the Scotch people to accept a
political change otherwise distasteful, because a seeming sacrifice of
independence. Before this time they had had their own navigation
system, modelled on the English; the Acts of the two parliaments
embodying certain relations of reciprocity. Thenceforward, the
Navigation Act is to be styled more properly a British, than an
English, measure; but its benefits, now common to all Great Britain,
were denied still to Ireland.

It will be realized that the habit of receiving exclusive favors at
the expense of a particular set of people--the colonist and the
foreigner--readily passed in a few generations into an unquestioning
conviction of the propriety, and of the necessity, of such measures.
It should be easy now for those living under a high protective tariff
to understand that, having built up upon protection a principal
national industry,--the carrying trade,--involving in its
ramifications the prosperity of a large proportion of the
wealth-producers of the country, English statesmen would fear to touch
the fabric in any important part; and that their dread would be
intensified by the conviction, universally held, that to remove any of
these artificial supports would be to imperil at the same time the
Royal Navy, the sudden expansion of which, from a peace to a war
footing, depended upon impressment from the protected merchant ships.
It will be seen also that with such precedents of _entrepôt_, for the
nourishing of British commerce, it was natural to turn to the same
methods,--although in a form monstrously exaggerated,--when Napoleon
by his decrees sought to starve British commerce to death. In
conception and purpose, the Orders in Council of 1807 were simply a
development of the _entrepôt_ system. Their motto, "No trade save
through England,"--the watchword of the ministry of Canning,
Castlereagh, and Perceval, 1807-12,--was merely the revival towards
the United States, as an independent nation, of the methods observed
towards her when an assemblage of colonies, forty years before; the
object in both cases being the welfare of Great Britain, involved in
the monopoly of an important external commerce, the material of which,
being stored first in her ports, paid duty to her at the expense of
continental consumers.

Nor was there in the thought of the age, external to Great Britain,
any corrective of the impressions which dominated her commercial
policy. "Commercial monopoly," wrote Montesquieu, "is the leading
principle of colonial intercourse;" and an accomplished West Indian,
quoting this phrase about 1790, says: "The principles by which the
nations of Europe were influenced were precisely the same: (1) to
secure to themselves respectively the most important productions of
their colonies, and (2) to retain to themselves exclusively the
advantage of supplying the colonies with European goods and
manufactures."[33] "I see," wrote John Adams from France, in 1784,
"that the French merchants regard their colonies as English merchants
considered us twenty years ago." The rigor of the French colonial
trade system had been relaxed during the War of American Independence,
as was frequently done by all states during hostilities; but when
Louis XVI., in 1784, sought to continue this, though in an extremely
qualified concession, allowing American vessels of under sixty tons a
limited trade between the West Indies and their own country, the
merchants of Marseilles, Bordeaux, Rochelle, Nantes, St. Malo, all
sent in excited remonstrances, which found support in the provincial
parliaments of Bordeaux and Brittany.[34]

A further indication of the economical convictions of the French
people, and of the impression made upon Europe generally by the
success of the British Navigation Act, is to be seen in the fact that
in 1794, under the Republic, the National Convention issued a decree
identical in spirit, and almost identical in terms, with the English
Act of 1651. In the latter year, said the report of the Committee to
the Convention, "one-half the navigation of England was carried on by
foreigners. She has imperceptibly retaken her rights. Towards the year
1700 foreigners possessed no more than the fifth part of this
navigation; in 1725 only a little more than the ninth; in 1750 a
little more than a twelfth; and in 1791 they possessed only the
fourteenth part of it."[35] It is perhaps unnecessary to add that the
colonial system of Spain was as rigid as that of Great Britain, though
far less capably administered. So universal was the opinion of the
day as to the relation of colonies to navigation, that a contemporary
American, familiar with the general controversy, wrote: "Though
speculative politicians have entertained doubts in regard to favorable
effects from colonial possessions, taking into view the expenses of
their improvement, defence, and government, no question has been made
but that the monopoly of their trade greatly increases the commerce of
the nations to which they are appurtenant."[36] Very soon after the
adoption of the Constitution, the Congress of the United States, for
the development of the carrying trade, enacted provisions analogous to
the Navigation Act, so far as applicable to a nation having no
colonies, but with large shipping and coasting interests to be

To such accepted views, and to such traditional practice, the
independence of the thirteen British colonies upon the American
continent came not only as a new political fact, but as a portentous
breach in the established order of things. As such, it was regarded
with uneasy jealousy by both France and Spain; but to Great Britain it
was doubly ominous. Not only had she lost a reserved market, singly
the most valuable she possessed, but she had released, however
unwillingly, a formidable and recognized rival for the carrying trade,
the palladium of her naval strength. The market she was not without
hopes of regaining, by a compulsion which, though less direct, would
be in effect as real as that enforced by colonial regulation; but the
capacity of the Americans as carriers rested upon natural conditions
not so easy to overcome. The difficulty of the problem was increased
by the fact that the governments of the world generally were awaking
to the disproportionate advantages Great Britain had been reaping from
them for more than a century, during which they had listlessly
acquiesced in her aggressive absorption of the carriage of the seas.
America could count upon their sympathies, and possible co-operation,
in her rivalry with the British carrier. "It is manifest," wrote Coxe
in 1794, "that a prodigious and almost universal revolution in the
views of nations has taken place with regard to the carrying trade."
When John Adams spoke of the United States retaliating upon Great
Britain, by enacting a similar measure of its own, the minister of
Portugal, then a country of greater weight than now, replied: "Not a
nation in Europe would suffer a Navigation Act to be made by any other
at this day. That of England was made in times of ignorance, when few
nations cultivated commerce, and no country but she understood or
cared anything about it, but now all courts are attentive to it;"[37]
so much so, indeed, that it has been said this was the age of
commercial treaties. It was the age also of commercial regulation,
often mistaken and injurious, which found its ideals largely in the
Navigation Act of Great Britain, and in the resultant extraordinary
processes of minute and comprehensive interference, with every species
of commerce, and every article of export or import; for, while the
general principles of the Navigation Act were few and simple enough,
in application they entailed a watchful and constant balancing of
advantages by the Board of Trade, and a consequent manipulation of the
course of commerce,--a perfectly idealized and sublimated protection.
The days of its glory, however, were passing fast. Great Britain was
now in the position of one who has been first to exploit a great
invention, upon which he has an exclusive patent. Others were now
entering the field, and she must prepare for competition, in which she
most of all feared those of her own blood, the children of her loins;
for the signs of the menacing conditions following the War of
Independence had been apparent some time before the revolt of the
colonies gained for them liberty of action, heretofore checked in
favor of the mother country. In these conditions, and in the national
sentiment concerning them, are to be found the origin of a course of
action which led to the War of 1812.

Under the Navigation Act, and throughout the colonial period, the
transatlantic colonies of Great Britain had grown steadily; developing
a commercial individuality of their own, depending in each upon local
conditions. The variety of these, with the consequent variety of
occupations and products, and the distance separating all from the
mother country, had contributed to develop among them a certain degree
of mutual dependence, and consequent exchange; the outcome of which
was a commercial system interior to the group as a whole, and distinct
from the relations to Great Britain borne by them individually and
collectively. There was a large and important intercolonial
commerce,[38] consistent with the letter of the Navigation Act, as
well as a trade with Great Britain; and although each of these exerted
an influence upon the other, it was indirect and circuitous. The two
were largely separate in fact, as well as in idea; and the interchange
between the various colonies was more than double that with the mother
country. It drew in British as well as American seamen, and was
considered thus to entail the disadvantage that, unless America were
the scene of war, the crews there were out of reach of impressment;
that measure being too crude and unsystematic to reach effectively so
distant a source of supply. Curiously enough, also, by an act passed
in the reign of Queen Anne, seamen born in the American colonies were
exempted from impressment.[39] "During the late Civil War (of American
Independence) it has been found difficult sufficiently to man our
fleet, from the seamen insisting that, since they had been born in
America, they could not be pressed to serve in the British navy."[40]
In these conditions, and especially in the difficulty of
distinguishing the place of birth by the language spoken, is seen the
foreshadowing of the troubles attending the practice of Impressment,
after the United States had become a separate nation.

The British American colonies were divided by geographical conditions
into two primary groups: those of the West India Islands, and those of
the Continent. The common use of the latter term, in the thought and
speech of the day, is indicated by the comprehensive adjective
"Continental," familiarly applied to the Congress, troops, currency,
and other attributes of sovereignty, assumed by the revolted colonies
after their declaration of independence. Each group had special
commercial characteristics--in itself, and relatively to Great
Britain. The islands, whatever their minor differences of detail, or
their mutual jealousies, or even their remoteness from one
another,--Jamaica being a thousand miles from her eastern
sisters,--were essentially a homogeneous body. Similarity of latitude
and climate induced similarity of social and economical conditions;
notably in the dependence on slave labor, upon which the industrial
fabric rested. Their products, among which sugar and coffee were the
most important, were such as Europe did not yield; it was therefore to
their advantage to expend labor upon these wholly, and to depend upon
external sources for supplies of all kinds, including food. Their
exports, being directed by the Navigation Act almost entirely upon
Great Britain, were, in connection with Virginia tobacco, the most
lucrative of the "enumerated" articles which rendered tribute to the
_entrepôt_ monopoly of the mother country. It was in this respect
particularly, as furnishing imports to be handled and re-exported,
that the islands were valuable to the home merchants. To the welfare
of the body politic they contributed by their support of the carrying
trade; for the cargoes, being bulky, required much tonnage, and the
entire traffic was confined to British ships, manned three-fourths by
British seamen. As a market also the islands were of consequence; all
their supplies coming, by law, either from or through Great Britain,
or from the continental colonies. Intercourse with foreign states was
prohibited, and that with foreign colonies allowed only under rare and
disabling conditions. But although the West Indies thus maintained a
large part of the mother country's export trade, the smallness of
their population, and the simple necessities of the slaves, who formed
the great majority of the inhabitants, rendered them as British
customers much inferior to the continental colonies; and this
disparity was continually increasing, for the continent was growing
rapidly in numbers, wealth, and requirements. In the five years
1744-48, the exports from Great Britain to the two quarters were
nearly equal; but a decade later the continent took double the amount
that the islands demanded. The figures quoted for the period 1754-58
are: to the West Indies, £3,765,000; to North America, £7,410,000.[41]
In the five years ending 1774 the West Indies received £6,748,095; the
thirteen continental colonies, £13,660,180.[42]

Imports from the continent also supported the carrying trade of Great
Britain, but not to an extent proportionate to those from the islands;
for many of the continental colonies were themselves large carriers.
The imports to them, being manufactured articles, less bulky than the
exports of the islands, also required less tonnage. The most marked
single difference between the West India communities and those of the
continent was that the latter, being distributed on a nearly north and
south line, with consequent great divergences of climate and products,
were essentially not homogeneous. What one had, another had not. Such
differences involve of course divergence of interests, with consequent
contentions and jealousies, the influence of which was felt most
painfully prior to the better Union of 1789, and never can wholly
cease to act; but, on the other hand, it tends also to promote
exchange of offices, where need and facility of transport combine to
make such exchange beneficial to both. That the intercourse between
the continental colonies required a tonnage equal to that employed
between them and the West Indies,--testified by the return of 1770
before quoted,[43]--shows the existence of conditions destined
inevitably to draw them together. The recognition of such mutual
dependence, when once attained, furthers the practice of mutual
concession for the purpose of combined action. Consequently, in the
protracted struggle between the centripetal and centrifugal forces in
North America, the former prevailed, though not till after long and
painful wavering.

While thus differing greatly among themselves in the nature of their
productions, and in their consequent wants, the continental colonists
as a whole had one common characteristic. Recent occupants of a new,
unimproved, and generally fertile country, they turned necessarily to
the cultivation of the soil as the most remunerative form of activity,
while for manufactured articles they depended mainly upon external
supplies, the furnishing of which Great Britain reserved to herself.
For these reasons they afforded the great market which they were to
her, and which by dint of habit and of interest they long continued to
be. But, while thus generally agricultural by force of circumstances,
the particular outward destinations of their surplus products varied.
Those of the southern colonies, from Maryland to Georgia, were classed
as "enumerated," and, with the exception of the rice of South Carolina
and Georgia, partially indulged as before mentioned, must be directed
upon Great Britain. Tobacco, cotton, indigo, pitch, tar, turpentine,
and spars of all kinds for ships, were specifically named, and
constituted much the larger part of the exports of those colonies.
These were carried also chiefly by British vessels, and not by
colonial. The case was otherwise in the middle colonies, Pennsylvania,
New York, New Jersey, and in Connecticut and Rhode Island of the
eastern group. They were exporters of provisions,--of grain, flour,
and meat, the latter both as live stock and salted; of horses also. As
the policy of the day protected the British farmer, these articles
were not required to be sent to Great Britain; on the contrary, grain
was not allowed admission except in times of scarcity, determined by
the price of wheat in the London market. The West Indies, therefore,
were the market of the middle colonies; the shortness of the voyage,
and the comparatively good weather, after a little southing had been
gained, giving a decisive advantage over European dealers in the
transportation of live animals. Flour also, because it kept badly in
the tropics, required constant carriage of new supplies from sources
near at hand. Along with provisions the continental vessels took
materials for building and cooperage, both essential to the industry
of the islands,--to the housing of the inhabitants, and to the
transport of their sugar, rum, and molasses. In short, so great was
the dependence of the islands upon this trade, that a well-informed
planter of the time quotes with approval the remark of "a very
competent judge," that, "if the continent had been wholly in foreign
hands, and England wholly precluded from intercourse with it, it is
very doubtful whether we should now have possessed a single acre in
the West Indies."[44]

Now this traffic, while open to all British shipping, was very largely
in the hands of the colonists, who built ships decidedly cheaper than
could be done in England, and could distribute their tonnage in
vessels too small to brave the Atlantic safely, but, from their
numbers and size, fitted to scatter to the numerous small ports of
distribution, which the badness of internal communications rendered
advantageous for purposes of supply. A committee of the Privy Council
of Great Britain, constituted soon after the independence of the
United States to investigate the conditions of West India trade,
reported that immediately before the revolt the carriage between the
islands and the continent had occupied 1610 voyages, in vessels
aggregating 115,634 tons, navigated by 9718 men. These transported
what was then considered "the vast" American cargo, of £500,000
outward and £400,000 inward. But the ominous feature from the point of
view of the Navigation Act was that this was carried almost wholly in
American bottoms.[45] In short, not to speak of an extensive practice
of smuggling, facilitated by a coast line too long and indented to be
effectually watched,--mention of which abounds in contemporary
annals,[46]--a very valuable part of the British carrying trade was in
the hands of the middle colonists, whose activity, however, did not
stop even there; for, not only did they deal with foreign West
Indies,[47] but the cheapness of their vessels, owing to the abundance
of the materials, permitted them to be used also to advantage in a
direct trade with southern Europe, their native products being for the
most part "not enumerated." As early as 1731, Pennsylvania employed
eight thousand tons of shipping, while the New England colonies at the
same time owned forty thousand tons, distributed in six hundred
vessels, manned by six thousand seamen.

The New Englanders, like their countrymen farther south, were mostly
farmers; but the more rugged soil and severer climate gave them little
or no surplus for export. For gain by traffic, for material for
exchange, they therefore turned to the sea, and became the great
carriers of America, as well as its great fishers. An English
authority, writing of the years immediately preceding the War of
Independence, states that most of the seamen sailing out of the
southern ports were British; from the middle colonies, half British
and half American; but in the New England shipping he admits
three-fourths were natives.[48] This tendency of British seamen to
take employment in colonial ships is worthy of note, as foreshadowing
the impressment difficulties of a later day. These, like most of the
disagreements which led to the War of 1812, had their origin in
ante-revolutionary conditions. For example, Commodore Palliser, an
officer of mark, commanding the Newfoundland station in 1767, reported
to the Admiralty the "cruel custom," long practised by commanders of
fishing ships, of leaving many men on the desert coast of
Newfoundland, when the season was over, whereby "these men were
obliged to sell themselves to the colonists, or piratically run off
with vessels, which they carry to the continent of America. By these
practices the Newfoundland fishery, supposed to be one of the most
valuable nurseries for seamen,[49] has long been an annual drain."[50]
In the two years, 1764-65, he estimates that 2,500 seamen thus went to
the colonies; in the next two years, 400. The difference was probably
due to the former period being immediately after a war, the effects of
which it reflected.

The general conditions of 1731 remained thirty years later, simply
having become magnified as the colonies grew in wealth and population.
In 1770 twenty-two thousand tons of shipping were annually built by
the continental colonists. They even built ships for Great Britain;
and this indulgence, for so it was considered, was viewed jealously by
a class of well-informed men, intelligent, but fully imbued with the
ideas of the Navigation Act, convinced that the carrying trade was the
corner-stone of the British Navy, and realizing that where ships were
cheaply built they could be cheaply sailed, even if they paid higher
wages. It is true, and should be sedulously remembered, especially now
in the United States, that the strength of a merchant shipping lies in
its men even more than in its ships; and therefore that the policy of
a country which wishes a merchant marine should be to allow its ships
to be purchased where they most cheaply can, in order that the owner
may be able to spend more on his crew, and the nation consequently to
keep more seamen under its flag. But in 1770 the relative conditions
placed Great Britain under serious disadvantages towards America in
the matter of ship-building; for the heavy drafts upon her native oak
had caused the price to rise materially, and even the forests of
continental Europe felt the strain, while the colonies had scarcely
begun to touch their resources. In 1775, more than one-third of the
foreign trade of Great Britain was carried in American-built ships;
the respective tonnage being, British-built, 605,545; American,

British merchants and ship-owners knew also that the colonial carriers
were not ardent adherents of the Navigation Act, but conducted their
operations in conformity with it only when compelled.[52] They traded
with the foreigner as readily as with the British subject; and, what
was quite unpardonable in the ideas of that time, after selling a
cargo in a West Indian port, instead of reloading there, they would
take the hard cash of the island to a French neighbor, buying of him
molasses to be made into rum at home. In this commercial shrewdness
the danger was not so much in the local loss, or in the single
transaction, for in the commercial supremacy of England the money was
pretty sure to find its way back to the old country. The sting was
that the sharp commercial instinct, roving from port to port, with a
keen scent for freight and for bargains, maintained a close rivalry
for the carrying trade, which was doubly severe from the natural
advantages of the shipping and the natural aptitudes of the
ship-owners. Already the economical attention of the New Englanders to
the details of their shipping business had been noted, and had earned
for them the name of the Dutchmen of North America; an epithet than
which there was then none more ominous to British ears, and especially
where with the carrying trade was associated the twin idea of a
nursery of seamen for the British Navy.

A fair appreciation of the facts and relations, summarized in the
preceding pages from an infinitude of details, is necessary to a
correct view of the origin and course of the misunderstandings and
disagreements which finally led to the War of 1812. In 1783, the
restoration of peace and the acknowledgment of the independence of the
former colonies removed from commerce the restrictions incident to
hostilities, and replaced in full action, essentially unchanged, the
natural conditions which had guided the course of trade in colonial
days. The old country, retaining all the prepossessions associated
with the now venerable and venerated Navigation Act, saw herself
confronted with the revival of a commercial system, a commercial
independence, of which she had before been jealous, and which could no
longer be controlled by political dependence. It was to be feared that
supplying the British West Indies would increase American shipping,
and that British seamen would more and more escape into it, with
consequent loss to British navigation, both in tonnage and men, and
discouragement to British maritime industries. Hence, by the ideas of
the time, was to be apprehended weakness for war, unless some
effective check could be devised.

What would have been the issue of these anxieties, and of the measures
to which they gave rise, had not the French Revolution intervened to
aggravate the distresses of Great Britain, and to constrain her to
violent methods, is bootless to discuss. It remains true that, both
before and during the conflict with the French Republic and Empire,
the general character of her actions, to which the United States took
exception, was determined by the conditions and ideas that have been
stated, and can be understood only through reference to them. No
sooner had peace been signed, in 1783, than disagreements sprang up
again from the old roots of colonial systems and ideals. To these
essentially was due the detailed sequence of events which, influenced
by such traditions of opinion and policy as have been indicated,
brought on the War of 1812, which has not inaptly been styled the
second War of Independence. Madison, who was contemporary with the
entire controversy, and officially connected with it from 1801 to the
end of the war, first as Secretary of State, and later as President,
justly summed up his experience of the whole in these words: "To have
shrunk from resistance, under such circumstances, would have
acknowledged that, on the element which forms three-fourths of the
globe which we inhabit, and where all independent nations have equal
and common rights, the American People were not an independent people,
but colonists and vassals. With such an alternative war was
chosen."[53] The second war was closely related to the first in fact,
though separated by a generation in time.


[1] Order in Council was a general term applied to all orders touching
affairs, internal as well as external, issued by the King in Council.
The particular orders here in question, by their extraordinary
character and wide application, came to have a kind of sole title to
the expression in the diplomatic correspondence between the two

[2] Instructions of Madison, Secretary of State, to Monroe, Minister
to Great Britain, January 5, 1804. Article I. American State Papers,
vol. iii. p. 82.

[3] Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, vol. ii. pp. 508, 546.

[4] Annals of Congress. Thirteenth Congress, vol. ii. pp. 1563;

[5] Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 234. Author's italics.

[6] Diary and Letters, vol. ii. p. 553.

[7] Ibid., p. 560. Those unfamiliar with the subject should be
cautioned that the expression "right of search" is confined here, not
quite accurately, to searching for British subjects liable to
impressment. This right the United States denied. The "right of
search" to determine the nationality of the vessel, and the character
of the voyage, was admitted to belligerents then, as it is now, by all

[8] King John, Act II. Scene 1.

[9] King Richard II., Act II. Scene 1.

[10] Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
Edited by J.E. Thorold Rogers. Oxford, 1880, pp. 35-38. In a
subsequent passage (p. 178), Smith seems disposed somewhat to qualify
the positive assertion here quoted, on the ground that the Navigation
Act had not had time to exert much effect, at the period when some of
the most decisive successes over the Dutch were won. It is to be
observed, however, that a vigorous military government, such as
Cromwell's was, can assert itself in the fleet as well as in the army,
creating an effective organization out of scanty materials, especially
when at war with a commercial state of weak military constitution,
like Holland. It was the story of Rome and Carthage repeated. Louis
XIV. for a while accomplished the same. But under the laxity of a
liberal popular government, which England increasingly enjoyed after
the Restoration, naval power could be based securely only upon a
strong, available, and permanent maritime element in the civil body
politic; that is, on a mercantile marine.

As regards the working of the Navigation Act to this end, whatever may
be argued as to the economical expediency of protecting a particular
industry, there is no possible doubt that such an industry can be
built up, to huge proportions, by sagacious protection consistently
enforced. The whole history of protection demonstrates this, and the
Navigation Act did in its day. It created the British carrying trade,
and in it provided for the Royal Navy an abundant and accessible
reserve of raw material, capable of being rapidly manufactured into
naval seamen in an hour of emergency.

[11] Works of John Adams, vol. viii. pp. 389-390.

[12] This primary meaning of the word "staple" seems to have
disappeared from common use, in which it is now applied to the
commercial articles, the concentration of which at a particular port
made that port a "staple."

[13] Bryan Edwards, West Indies, vol. ii. p. 448.

[14] Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, vol. ii. p. 443.

[15] Reeves, History of the Law of Navigation, Dublin, 1792, p. 37.

[16] Macpherson, vol. ii. p. 444.

[17] Reeves, writing in 1792, says that there seemed then no
distinction of meaning between "plantation" and "colony." Plantation
was the earlier term; "'colony' did not come much into use till the
reign of Charles II., and it seems to have denoted the political
relation." (p. 109.) By derivation both words express the idea of
cultivating new ground, or establishing a new settlement; but
"plantation" seems to associate itself more with the industrial
beginnings, and "colony" with the formal regulative purpose of the
parent state.

[18] The Navigation Acts of 1651, 1660, 1662, and 1663, as well as
other subsequent measures of the same character, can be found,
conveniently for American readers, in MacDonald's Select Charters
Illustrative of American History. Macmillan, New York. 1899.

[19] Reeves, History of the Law of Navigation, p. 162.

[20] For instance, in 1769, eighteen hundred and forty vessels passed
the Sound in the British trade. Of these only thirty-five were
Russian. Considerably more than half of the trade of St. Petersburg
with Europe at large was done in British ships. Macpherson, vol. iii.
p. 493.

[21] Opinion of Chief Baron Parker, quoted by Reeves, pp. 187-189.

[22] Chalmers, Opinions on Interesting Subjects of Public Law and
Commercial Policy Arising from American Independence, p. 32.

[23] Ibid., p. 55.

[24] A French naval historian supports them, speaking of the year
1781: "The considerable armaments made since 1778 had exhausted the
resources of personnel. To remedy the difficulty the complements were
filled up with coast-guard militia, with marine troops until then
employed only to form the guards of the ships, and finally with what
were called 'novices volontaires,' who were landsmen recruited by
bounties. It may be imagined what crews were formed with such
elements."--Troude, Batailles Navales, vol. ii. p. 202.

[25] Raynal, Histoire Philosophique des deux Indes, vol. vii. p. 287
(Edition 1820). Raynal's reputation is that of a plagiarist, but his
best work is attributed to far greater names of his time. He died in

[26] Reeves, pp. 430-434.

[27] Macpherson, vol. iv. p. 10.

[28] Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, vol. i. p. 485-486.

[29] Bryan Edwards, West Indies, vol. ii. p. 450.

[30] Officially, Statute of 15 Charles II.

[31] Reeves, p. 50.

[32] Chalmers, Opinions on Interesting Subjects, p. 28.

[33] Bryan Edwards, West Indies, vol. ii. p. 443-444 (3d Edition).

[34] Works of John Adams, vol. viii. p. 228.

[35] Compare with Sheffield, Observations on the Commerce of the
American States (Edition February, 1784), p. 137, note; from which,
indeed, these figures seem to have been taken, or from some common

[36] Coxe's View of the United States of America, Philadelphia, 1794,
p. 330.

[37] Works of John Adams, vol. viii. p. 341. Adams says again,
himself: "It is more and more manifest every day that there is, and
will continue, a general scramble for navigation. Carrying trade,
ship-building, fisheries, are the cry of every nation."--Vol. viii. p.

[38] From an official statement, made public in 1784, it appears that
in the year 1770 the total trade, inward and outward, of the colonies
on the American Continent, amounted to 750,546 tons. Of this 32 per
cent was coastwise, to other members of the group; 30 with the West
Indies; 27 with Great Britain and Ireland; and 11 with Southern
Europe. Bermuda and the Bahamas, inconsiderable as to trade, were
returned among continental colonies by the Custom House.--Sheffield,
Commerce of the American States, Table VII.

[39] Chalmers, Opinions, p. 73.

[40] Ibid., p. 18.

[41] Macpherson, vol. iii. p. 317.

[42] Report of Committee of Privy Council, Jan. 28, 1791, pp. 21-23.

[43] Ante, p. 31 (note).

[44] Bryan Edwards, West Indies, vol. ii. p. 486.

[45] Chalmers, Opinions, p. 133.

[46] See, for instance, the Colden Papers, Proceedings N.Y. Historical
Society, 1877. There is in these much curious economical information
of other kinds.

[47] A comparison of the figures just quoted, as to the British West
Indies, with Sheffield's Table VII., indicates that the trade of the
Continent with the foreign islands about equalled that with the
British. The trade with the French West Indies, "open or clandestine,
was considerable, and wholly in American vessels."--Macpherson, vol.
iii. p. 584.

[48] Sheffield, Commerce of the American States, p. 108.

[49] That is, for the navy.

[50] Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, vol. iii. p. 472.

[51] Macpherson, vol. iv. p. 11. The great West India cargo of 1772,
an especial preserve of the Navigation Act, was carried to England in
679 ships, of which one-third were built in America.

[52] "The contraband trade carried on by plantation ships in defiance
of the Act of Navigation was a subject of repeated complaint." "The
laws of Navigation were nowhere disobeyed and contemned so openly as
in New England. The people of Massachusetts Bay were from the first
disposed to act as if independent of the mother country."--Reeves, pp.
54, 58. The particular quotations apply to the early days of the
measure, 1662-3; but the complaint continued to the end. In 1764-5,
"one of the great grievances in the American trade was, that great
quantities of foreign molasses and syrups were clandestinely run on
shore in the British Colonies."--p. 79.

[53] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 82.



The colonial connection between Great Britain and the thirteen
communities which became the original States of the American Union was
brought to a formal conclusion in 1776, by their Declaration of
Independence. Substantially, however, it had already terminated in
1774. This year was marked by the passage of the Boston Port Bill,
with its accessory measures, by the British Parliament, and likewise
by the renewal, in the several colonies, of the retaliatory
non-importation agreements of 1765. The fundamental theory of the
eighteenth century concerning the relations between a mother country
and her colonies, that of reciprocal exclusive benefit, had thus in
practice yielded to one of mutual injury; to coercion and deprivation
on the one side, and to passive resistance on the other. On September
5 the representatives of twelve colonies assembled in Philadelphia;
Georgia alone sending no delegates, but pledging herself in
anticipation to accept the decisions taken by the others. One of the
first acts of this Congress of the Continental Colonies was to indorse
the resolutions by which Massachusetts had placed herself in an
attitude of contingent rebellion against the Crown, and to pledge
their support to her in case of a resort to arms. These several steps
were decisive and irrevocable, except by an unqualified abandonment,
by one party or the other, of the principles which underlay and
dictated them. The die was cast. To use words attributed to George the
Third, "the colonies must now either submit or triumph."

The period which here began, viewed in the aggregate of the national
life of the United States, was one of wavering transition and
uncertain issue in matters political and commercial. Its ending, in
these two particulars, is marked by two conspicuous events: the
adoption of the Constitution and the Commercial Treaty with Great
Britain. The formation of the Federal Government, 1788-90, gave to the
Union a political stability it had hitherto lacked, removing elements
of weakness and dissensions, and of consequent impotence in foreign
relations; the manifestation of which since the acknowledgment of
independence had justified alike the hopes of enemies and the
forebodings of friends. Settled conditions being thus established at
home, with institutions competent to regulate a national commerce,
internal and external, as well as to bring the people as a whole into
fixed relations with foreign communities, there was laid the
foundations of a swelling prosperity to which the several parts of the
country jointly contributed. The effects of these changes were soon
shown in a growing readiness on the part of other nations to enter
into formal compacts with us. Of this, the treaty negotiated by John
Jay with Great Britain, in 1794, is the most noteworthy instance;
partly because it terminated one long series of bickerings with our
most dangerous neighbor, chiefly because the commercial power of the
state with which it was contracted had reached a greater eminence, and
exercised wider international effect, than any the modern world had
then seen.

Whatever the merits of the treaty otherwise, therefore, the
willingness of Great Britain to enter into it at all gave it an
epochal significance. Since independence, commercial intercourse
between the two peoples had rested on the strong compelling force of
natural conditions and reciprocal convenience, the true foundation,
doubtless, of all useful relations; but its regulation had been by
municipal ordinance of either state, changeable at will, not by
mutual agreement binding on both for a prescribed period. Since the
separation, this condition had seemed preferable to Great Britain,
which, as late as 1790, had evaded overtures towards a commercial
arrangement.[54] Her consenting now to modify her position was an
implicit admission that in trade, as in political existence, the
former mother country recognized at last the independence of her
offspring. The latter, however, was again to learn that independence,
to be actual, must rest on something stronger than words, and surer
than the acquiescence of others. This was to be the lesson of the
years between 1794 and 1815, administered to us not only by the
preponderant navy of Great Britain, but by the petty piratical fleets
of the Barbary powers.

From the Boston Port Bill to Jay's Treaty was therefore a period of
transition from entire colonial dependence, under complete regulation
of all commercial intercourse by the mother country, to that of
national commercial power, self-regulative and efficient, through the
adoption of the Constitution. Upon this followed international
influence, the growing importance of which Great Britain finally
recognized by formal concessions, hitherto refused or evaded. During
these years the policy of her government was undergoing a process of
adjustment, conditioned on the one hand by the still vigorous
traditional prejudices associated with the administration of
dependencies, and on the other by the radical change in political
relations between her remaining colonies in America and the new states
which had broken from the colonial bond. This change was the more
embarrassing, because the natural connection of specific mutual
usefulness remained, although the tie of a common allegiance had been
loosed. The old order was yielding to the new, but the process was
signalized by the usual slowness of men to accept events in their
full significance. Hitherto, all the western hemisphere had been
under a colonial system of complete monopoly by mother countries, and
had been generally excluded from direct communication with Europe,
except the respective parent states. In the comprehensive provisions
of the British Navigation Act, America was associated with Asia and
Africa. Now had arisen there an independent state, in political
standing identical with those of Europe, yet having towards colonial
America geographical and commercial relations very different from
theirs. Consequently there was novelty and difficulty in the question,
What intercourse with the remaining British dominions, and especially
with the American colonies, should be permitted to the new nation?
Notwithstanding the breach lately made, it continued a controlling aim
with the British people, and of the government as determined by
popular pressure, to restore the supremacy of British trade, by the
subjection of America, independent as well as colonial, to the welfare
of British commerce. Notably this was to be so as regards the one
dominant interest called Navigation, under which term was comprised
everything relating to shipping,--ship-building, seafaring men, and
the carrying trade. Independence had deprived Great Britain of the
right she formerly had to manipulate the course of the export and
import trade of the now United States. It remained to try whether
there did not exist, nevertheless, the ability effectually to control
it to the advantage of British navigation, as above defined. "Our
remaining colonies on the Continent, and the West India Islands," it
was argued, "with the favorable state of English manufactures, may
still give us almost exclusively the trade of America;" provided these
circumstances were suitably utilized, and their advantages rigorously
enforced, where power to do so still remained, as it did in the West

Although by far the stronger and more flourishing part of her
colonial dominions had been wrested from Great Britain, there yet
remained to her upon the continent, in Canada and the adjacent
provinces, a domain great in area, and in the West India Islands
another of great productiveness. Whatever wisdom had been learned as
regards the political treatment of colonies, the views as to the
nature of their economical utility to the mother country, and their
consequent commercial regulation, had undergone no enlargement, but
rather had been intensified in narrowness and rigor by the loss of so
valuable a part of the whole. No counteractive effect to this
prepossession was to be found in contemporary opinion in Europe. The
French Revolution itself, subversive as it was of received views in
many respects, was at the first characterized rather by an
exaggeration of the traditional exclusive policy of the eighteenth
century relating to colonies, shipping, and commerce. In America, the
unsettled commercial and financial conditions which succeeded the
peace, the divergence of interests between the several new states, the
feebleness of the confederate government, its incompetency to deal
assuredly with external questions, and lack of all power to regulate
commerce, inspired a conviction in Great Britain that the continent
could not offer strong, continued resistance to commercial aggression,
carried on under the peaceful form of municipal regulation. It was
generally thought that the new states could never unite, but instead
would drift farther apart.

The belief was perfectly reasonable; a gift of prophecy only could
have foretold the happy result, of which many of the most prominent
Americans for some time despaired. "It will not be an easy matter,"
wrote Lord Sheffield,[55] "to bring the American States to act as a
nation; they are not to be feared as such by us. It must be a long
time before they can engage, or will concur, in any material
expense.... We might as reasonably dread the effects of combinations
among the German as among the American states, and deprecate the
resolves of the Diet, as those of Congress." "No treaty can be made
that will be binding on the whole of them." "A decided cast has been
given to public opinion here," wrote John Adams from London, in
November, 1785, "by two presumptions. One is, that the American states
are not, and cannot, be united."[56] Two years later Washington wrote:
"The situation of the General Government, if it can be called a
government, is shaken to its foundation, and liable to be overturned
at every blast. In a word, it is at an end.... The primary cause of
all our disorders lies in the different state governments, and in the
tenacity of that power which underlies the whole of their systems.
Independent sovereignty is so ardently contended for." "At present,
under our existing form of confederation, it would be idle to think of
making commercial regulations on our part. One state passes a
prohibitory law respecting one article; another state opens wide the
avenue for its admission. One assembly makes a system, another
assembly unmakes it."[57]

Under such conditions it was natural that a majority of Englishmen
should see power and profit for Great Britain in availing herself of
the weakness of her late colonists, to enforce upon them a commercial
dependence as useful as the political dependence which had passed
away. Were this realized, she would enjoy the emoluments of the land
without the expense of its protection. This gospel was preached at
once to willing ears, and found acceptance; not by the strength of its
arguments, for these, though plausible, were clearly inferior in
weight to the facts copiously adduced by those familiar with
conditions, but through the prejudices which the then generation had
received from the three or four preceding it. The policy being
adopted, the instrument at hand for enforcing it was the relation of
colonies to mother countries, as then universally maintained by the
governments of the day. The United States, like other independent
nations, was to be excluded wholly from carrying trade with the
British colonies, and as far as possible from sending them supplies.
It was urged that Canada, and the adjacent British dominions,
encouraged by this reservation of the West India market for their
produce, would prove adequate to furnishing the provisions and lumber
previously derived from the old continental colonies. The prosperity
once enjoyed by the latter would be transferred, and there would be
reconstituted the system of commercial intercourse, interior to the
empire, which previously had commanded general admiration. The new
states, acting commercially as separated communities, could oppose no
successful rivalry to this combination, and would revert to isolated
commercial dependence; tributary to the financial supremacy of Great
Britain, as they recently had been to her political power. In debt to
her for money, and drawing from her manufactures, returns for both
would compel their exports to her ports chiefly, whence distribution
would be, as of old, in the hands of British middlemen and navigators.
Just escaped from the fetters of the carrying trade and _entrepôt_
regulations, the twin monopolies in which consisted the value of a
colonial empire, it was proposed to reduce them again under bondage by
means for which the West India Islands furnished the leverage; for
"the trade carried on by Great Britain with the countries now become
the United States was, and still is, so connected with the trade
carried on to the remaining British colonies in America, and the
British islands in the West Indies, that it is impossible to form a
true judgment of the past and present of the first, without taking a
comprehensive view of all, as they are connected with, and influence,
each other."[58]

Before the peace of 1783, the writings of Adam Smith had gravely
shaken belief in the mercantile system of extraordinary trade
regulation and protection as conducive to national prosperity. Though
undermined, however, it had not been overthrown; and even to doubters
there remained the exception, which Smith himself admitted, of the
necessity to protect navigation as a nursery for the navy, and
consequently as a fundamental means of national defence. Existence
takes precedence of prosperity; the life is more than the meat.
Commercial regulation, though unfitted to increase wealth, could be
justified as a means to promote ship-building; to retain ship-builders
in the country; to husband the raw materials of their work; to force
the transport of merchandise in British-built ships and by British
seamen; and thus to induce capital to invest, and men to embark their
lives, in maritime trade, to the multiplication of ships and seamen,
the chief dependence of the nation in war. "Keeping ships for
freight," said Sheffield, "is not the most profitable branch of trade.
It is necessary, for the sake of our marine, to force or encourage it
by exclusive advantages." "Comparatively with the number of our people
and the extent of our country, we are doomed almost always to wage
unequal war; and as a means of raising seamen it cannot be too often
repeated that it is not possible to be too jealous on the head of
navigation." He proceeds then at once to draw the distinction between
the protection of navigation and that of commerce generally. "This
jealousy should not be confounded with that towards neighboring
countries as to trade and manufactures; nor is the latter jealousy in
many instances reasonable or well founded. Competition is useful,
forcing our manufacturers to act fairly, and to work reasonably."
Sheffield was the most conspicuous, and probably the most influential,
of the controversialists on this side of the question at this period;
the interest of the public is shown by his pamphlet passing through
six editions in a twelvemonth. He was, however, far from singular in
this view. Chalmers, a writer of much research, said likewise: "In
these considerations of nautical force and public safety we discover
the fundamental principle of Acts of Navigation, which, though
established in opposition to domestic and foreign clamors, have
produced so great an augmentation of our native shipping and sailors,
and which therefore should not be sacrificed to any projects of
private gain,"--that is, of commercial advantage. "There are
intelligent persons who suggest that the imposing of alien duties on
alien ships, rather than on alien merchandise, would augment our naval

Colonies therefore were esteemed desirable to this end chiefly. To use
the expression of a French officer,[60] they were the fruitful nursery
of seamen. French writers of that day considered their West India
islands the chief nautical support of the state. But in order to
secure this, it was necessary to exercise complete control of their
trade inward and outward; of the supplies they needed as well as of
the products they raised, and especially to confine the carriage of
both to national shipping. "The only use and advantage of the
(remaining) American colonies[61] or West India islands to Great
Britain," says Sheffield, "are the monopoly of their consumption and
the carriage of their produce. It is the advantage to our navigation
which in any degree countervails the enormous expense of protecting
our islands. Rather than give up their carrying trade it would be
better to give up themselves." The _entrepôt_ system herein found
additional justification, for not only did it foster navigation by the
homeward voyage, confined to British ships, and extort toll in
transit, but the re-exportation made a double voyage which was more
than doubly fruitful in seamen; for from the nearness of the British
Islands to the European continent, which held the great body of
consumers, this second carriage could be done, and actually was done,
by numerous small vessels, able to bear a short voyage but not to
brave an Atlantic passage. Economically, trade by many small vessels
is more expensive than by a few large, because for a given aggregate
tonnage it requires many more men; but this economical loss was
thought to be more than compensated by the political gain in
multiplying seamen. It was estimated in 1795 that there was a
difference of from thirty-five to forty men in carrying the same
quantity of goods in one large or ten small vessels. This illustrates
aptly the theory of the Navigation Act, which sought wealth indeed,
but, as then understood, subordinated that consideration distinctly to
the superior need of increasing the resources of the country in ships
and seamen. Moreover, the men engaged in these short voyages were more
immediately at hand for impressment in war, owing to the narrow range
of their expeditions and their frequent returns to home ports.

In 1783, therefore, the Navigation Act had become in general
acceptance a measure not merely commercial, but military. It was
defended chiefly as essential to the naval power of Great Britain,
which rested upon the sure foundation of maritime resources thus laid.
Nor need this view excite derision to-day, for it compelled then the
adhesion of an American who of all in his time was most adverse to the
general commercial policy of Great Britain. In a report on the subject
made to Congress in 1793, by Jefferson, as Secretary of State, he
said: "Our navigation involves still higher considerations than our
commerce. As a branch of industry it is valuable, but as a resource of
defence essential. It will admit neither neglect nor forbearance. The
position and circumstances of the United States leave them nothing to
fear on their land-board; ... but on their seaboard they are open to
injury, and they have there too a commerce (coasting) which must be
protected. This can only be done by possessing a respectable body of
citizen-seamen, and of artists and establishments in readiness for
ship-building."[62] The limitations of Jefferson's views appear here
clearly, in the implicit relegation of defence, not to a regular and
trained navy, but to the occasional unskilled efforts of a distinctly
civil force; but no stronger recognition of the necessities of Great
Britain could be desired, for her nearness to the great military
states of the world deprived her land-board of the security which the
remoteness of the United States assured. With such stress laid upon
the vital importance of merchant seamen to national safety, it is but
a step in thought to perceive how inevitable was the jealousy and
indignation felt in Great Britain, when she found her fleets, both
commercial and naval, starving for want of seamen, who had sought
refuge from war in the American merchant service, and over whom the
American Government, actually weak and but yesterday vassal, sought to
extend its protection from impressment.

Up to the War of American Independence, the singular geographical
situation of Great Britain, inducing her to maritime enterprise and
exempting her from territorial warfare, with the financial and
commercial pre-eminence she had then maintained for three-fourths of a
century, gave her peculiar advantages for enforcing a policy which
until that time had thriven conspicuously, if somewhat illusively, in
its commercial results, and had substantially attained its especial
object of maritime preponderance. Other peoples had to submit to the
compulsion exerted by her overweening superiority. The obligation upon
foreign shipping to be three-fourths manned by their own citizens, for
instance, rested only upon a British law, and applied only in a
British port; but the accumulations of British capital, with the
consequent facility for mercantile operations and ability to extend
credits, the development of British manufactures, the extent of the
British carrying trade, the enforced storage of colonial products in
British territory, with the correlative obligation that foreign goods
for her numerous and increasing colonists must first be brought to her
shores and thence transshipped,--all these circumstances made the
British islands a centre for export and import, towards which foreign
shipping was unavoidably drawn and so brought under the operation of
the law. The nation had so far out-distanced competition that her
supremacy was unassailable, and remained unimpaired for a century
longer. To it had contributed powerfully the economical distribution
of her empire, greatly diversified in particulars, yet symmetrical in
the capacity of one part to supply what the other lacked. There was in
the whole a certain self-sufficingness, resembling that claimed in
this age for the United States, with its compact territory but wide
extremes of boundary, climates, and activities.

This condition, while it lasted, in large degree justified the
Navigation Act, which may be summarily characterized as a great
protective measure, applied to the peculiar conditions of a particular
maritime empire, insuring reciprocal and exclusive benefit to the
several parts. It was uncompromisingly logical in its action, not
hesitating at rigid prohibition of outside competition. Protection, in
its best moral sense, may be defined as the regulation of all the
business of the nation, considered as an interrelated whole, by the
Government, for the best interests of the entire community, likewise
regarded as a whole. This the Navigation Act did for over a century
after its enactment; and it may be plausibly argued that, as a war
resort at least, it afterwards measurably strengthened the hands of
Great Britain during the wars of the French Revolution. No men
suffered more than did the West India planters from its unrelieved
enforcement after 1783; yet in their vehement remonstrance they said:
"The policy of the Act is justly popular. Its regulations, until the
loss of America, under the various relaxations which Parliament has
applied to particular events and exigencies as they arose, have guided
the course of trade without oppressing it; for the markets which those
regulations left open to the consumption of the produce of the
colonies were sufficient to take off the whole, and no foreign country
could have supplied the essential part of their wants materially
cheaper than the colonies of the mother country could supply one

Thus things were, or were thought to be, up to the time when the
revolt of the continental colonies made a breach in the wall of
reciprocal benefit by which the whole had been believed to be
enclosed. The products of the colonies sustained the commercial
prosperity of the mother country, ministering to her export trade, and
supplying a reserve of consumers for her monopoly of manufactures,
which they were forbidden to establish for themselves, or to receive
from foreigners. She on her part excluded from the markets of the
empire foreign articles which her colonies produced, constituting for
them a monopoly of the imperial home market, as well in Great Britain
as in the sister colonies. The carriage of the whole was confined to
British navigation, the maintenance of which by this means raised the
British Navy to the mastery of the seas, enabling it to afford to the
entire system a protection, of which convincing and brilliant evidence
had been afforded during the then recent Seven Years' War. As a matter
of political combination and adjustment, for peace or for war, the
general result appeared to most men of that day to be consummate in
conception and in development, and therefore by all means to be
perpetuated. In that light men of to-day must realize it, if they
would adequately understand the influence exercised by this
prepossession upon the course of events which for the United States
issued in the War of 1812.

In this picture, so satisfactory as a whole, there had been certain
shadows menacing to the future. Already, in the colonial period, these
had been recognized by some in Great Britain as predictive of
increasing practical independence on the part of the continental
colonies, with results injurious to the empire at large, and to the
particular welfare of the mother kingdom. In the last analysis, this
danger arose from the fact that, unlike the tropical West Indies,
these children were for the most part too like their parent in
political and economical character, and in permanent natural
surroundings. There was, indeed, a temporary variation of activities
between the new communities, where the superabundance of soil kept
handicrafts in abeyance, and the old country, where agriculture was
already failing to produce food sufficient for the population, and men
were being forced into manufactures and their export as a means of
livelihood. There was also a difference in their respective products
which ministered to beneficial exchange. Nevertheless, in their
tendencies and in their disposition, Great Britain and the United
States at bottom were then not complementary, but rivals. The true
complement of both was the West Indies; and for these the advantage of
proximity, always great, and especially so with regard to the special
exigencies of the islands, lay with the United States. Hence it came
to pass that the trade with the West Indies, which then had almost a
monopoly of sugar and coffee production for the world, became the most
prominent single factor in the commercial contentions between the two
countries, and in the arbitrary commercial ordinances of Great
Britain, which step by step led the two nations into war. The
precedent struggle was over a market; artificial regulation and
superior naval power seeking to withstand the natural course of
things, and long successfully retarding it.

The suspension of intercourse during the War of Independence had
brought the economical relations into stronger relief, and
accomplished independence threatened the speedy realization of their
tendencies. There were two principal dangers dreaded by Great Britain.
The West India plantation industry had depended upon the continental
colonies for food supplies, and to a considerable extent also
financially; because these alone were the consumers of one important
product--rum. Again, ship-building and the carrying trade of the
empire had passed largely into the hands of the continental colonists,
keeping on that side of the Atlantic, it was asserted, a great number
of British-born seamen. While vessels from America visited many parts
of the world, the custom-house returns showed that of the total inward
and outward tonnage of the thirteen colonies, over sixty per cent had
been either coastwise or with the West Indies; and this left out of
account the considerable number engaged in smuggling. Of the
remainder, barely twenty-five per cent went to Great Britain or
Ireland. In short, there had been building upon the western side of
the ocean, under the colonial connection, a rival maritime system,
having its own products, its own special markets, and its own carrying
trade. The latter also, being done by very small vessels, adapted to
the short transit, had created for itself, or absorbed from
elsewhere, a separate and proportionately large maritime population,
rivalling that of the home country, while yet remaining out of easy
reach of impressment and remote from immediate interest in European
wars. One chief object of the Navigation Act was thus thwarted; and
indeed, as might be anticipated from quotations already made, it was
upon this that British watchfulness more particularly centred. As far
as possible all interchange was to be internal to the empire, a kind
of coasting trade, which would naturally, as well as by statute, fall
to British shipping. Protective regulation therefore should develop in
the several parts those productions which other parts needed,--the
material of commerce; but where this could not be done, and supplies
must be sought outside, they should go and come in British vessels,
navigated according to the Act. "Our country," wrote Sheffield, in
concluding his work, "does not entirely depend upon the monopoly of
the commerce of the thirteen American states, and it is by no means
necessary to sacrifice any part of our carrying trade for imaginary
advantages never to be attained."[63]

A further injury was done by the cheapness with which the Americans
built and sold ships, owing to their abundance of timber. They built
them not only to order, but as it were for a market. Although
acceptable to the mercantile interest, and even indirectly beneficial
by sparing the resources for building ships of war, this was an
invasion of the manufacturing industry of the kingdom, in a particular
peculiarly conducive to naval power. The returns of the British
underwriters for twenty-seven shipping ports of Great Britain and
Ireland, during a series of years immediately preceding the American
revolt, no ship being counted twice, showed the British-built vessels
entered to be 3,908, and the American 2,311.[64] The tonnage of the
latter was more than one-third of the total. The intercourse between
the American continent and the West Indies, not included in this
reckoning, was almost wholly in American bottoms. The proportion of
American-built shipping in the total of the empire is hence apparent,
as well as the growth of the ship-building industry. This of course
was accompanied by a tendency of mechanics, as well as seamen, to
remove to a situation so favorable for employment. But the maintenance
of home facilities for building ships was as essential to the
development of naval power as was the fostering of a class of seamen.
In this respect, therefore, the ship-building of America was
detrimental to the objects of the Navigation Act; and the evil
threatened to increase, because of a discernible approaching shortness
of suitable timber in the overtaxed forests of Europe.

Such being the apparent tendency of things, owing to circumstances
relatively permanent in character, the habit of mind traditional with
British merchants and statesmen, formed by the accepted colonial and
mercantile systems, impelled them at once to prohibitory measures of
counteraction, as soon as the colonies, naturally rival, had become by
independence a foreign nation. For a moment, indeed, it appeared that
broader views might prevail, based upon a sounder understanding of
actual conditions and of the principles of international commerce. The
second William Pitt was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time the
provisional articles of peace with the United States were signed, in
November, 1782; and in March, 1783, he introduced into the House of
Commons a bill for regulating temporarily the intercourse between the
two nations, so far as dependent upon the action of Great Britain,
until it should be possible to establish a mutual arrangement by
treaty. This measure reflected not only a general attitude of good
will towards America, characteristic of both father and son, but also
the impression which had been made upon the younger man by the
writings of Adam Smith. Professing as its objects "to establish
intercourse on the most enlarged principles of reciprocal benefit,"
and "to evince the disposition of Great Britain to be on terms of most
perfect amity with the United States of America," the bill admitted
the ships and vessels of the United States, with the merchandise on
board, into all the ports of Great Britain in the same manner as the
vessels of other independent states; that is, manned three-fourths by
American seamen. This preserved the main restrictions of the
Navigation Act, protective of British navigation; but the merchandise,
even if brought in American ships, was relieved of all alien duties.
These, however, wherever still existing for other nations, were light,
and this remission slight;[65] a more substantial concession was a
rebate upon all exports from Great Britain to the United States, equal
to that allowed upon goods exported to the colonies. As regarded
intercourse with the West Indies, there was to be made in favor of the
thirteen states a special and large remission in the rigor of the Act;
one affecting both commerce and navigation. To British colonies, by
long-standing proscription, no ships except British had been admitted
to export or import. By the proposed measure, the United States, alone
among the nations of the world, were to be allowed to import freely
any goods whatsoever, of their own growth, produce, or manufacture, in
their own ships; on the same terms exactly as British vessels, if
these should engage in the traffic between the American continent and
the islands. Similarly, freedom to export colonial produce was granted
to American bottoms from the West Indies to the United States. Both
exports and imports, thus to be authorized, were to be "liable to the
same duties and charges only as the same merchandise would be subject
to, if it were the property of British native-born subjects, and
imported in British ships, navigated by British seamen."[66] In short,
while the primary purpose doubtless was the benefit of the islands,
the effect of the measure, as regarded the West India trade, was to
restore the citizens of the now independent states to the privileges
they had enjoyed as colonists. The carrying trade between the islands
and the continent was conceded to them, and past experience gave
ground to believe it would be by them absorbed.

It was over this concession that the storm of controversy arose and
raged, until the outbreak of the French Revolution, by the
conservative reaction it provoked in other governments, arrested for
the time any change of principle in regard to colonial administration,
whatever modifications might from time to time be induced by momentary
exigencies of policy. The question immediately argued was probably on
all hands less one of principle than of expediency. Superior as
commercial prosperity and the preservation of peace were to most other
motives in the interest of Pitt's mind, he doubtless would have
admitted, along with his most earnest opponents, that the fostering of
the national carrying trade, as a nursery to the navy and so
contributory to national defence, took precedence of purely commercial
legislation. With all good-will to America, his prime object
necessarily was the welfare of Great Britain; but this he, contrary to
the mass of public opinion, conceived to lie in the restoration of the
old intercourse between the two peoples, modified as little as
possible by the new condition of independence. He trusted that the
habit of receiving everything from England, the superiority of British
manufactures, a common tongue, and commercial correspondences only
temporarily interrupted by the war, would tend to keep the new states
customers of Great Britain chiefly, as they had been before; and what
they bought they must pay for by sending their own products in return.
This constraint of routine and convenience received additional force
from the scarcity of capital in America, and its abundance in Great
Britain, relatively to the rest of Europe. The wealthiest nation could
hold the Americans by their need of accommodations which others could
not extend.

In so far there probably was a general substantial agreement in Great
Britain. The Americans had been consumers to over double the amount of
the West Indies before the war, and it was desirable to retain their
custom. Nor was the anticipation of success deceived. Nine years
later, despite the rejection of Pitt's measure, an experienced
American complained "that we draw so large a proportion of our
manufactures from one nation. The other European nations have had the
eight years of the war (of Independence) exclusively, and the nine
years of peace in fair competition, and do not yet supply us with
manufactures equivalent to half of the stated value of the shoes made
by ourselves."[67] In the first year of the government under the
Constitution, from August, 1789, to September 30, 1790, after seven
years of independence, out of a total of not quite $20,000,000 imports
to the United States, over $15,000,000 were from the dominions of
Great Britain;[68] and nearly half the exports went to the same
destination, either as raw material for manufactures, or as to the
distributing centre for Europe. The commercial dependence is evident;
it had rather increased than diminished since the Peace. As regards
American navigation, the showing was somewhat better; but even here
217,000 tons British had entered United States ports, against a total
of only 355,000 American. As of the latter only 50,000 had sailed from
Great Britain, it is clear that the empire had retained its hold upon
its carrying trade, throughout the years intervening between the Peace
and the adoption of the Constitution.

As regards the commercial relations between the two nations, these
results corresponded in the main with the expectations of those who
frustrated Pitt's measure. He had conceived, however, that it was wise
for Great Britain not only to preserve a connection so profitable, but
also to develop it; to multiply the advantage by steps which would
promote the prosperity and consequent purchasing power of the
communities involved. This was the object of his proposed concession.
During the then recent war, no part of the British dominions--save
besieged Gibraltar--had suffered so severely as the West Indies.
Though other causes concurred, this was due chiefly to the cessation
of communications with the revolted colonies, entailing failure of
supplies indispensable to their industries. Despite certain
alleviations incidental to the war, such as the capture of American
vessels bound to foreign islands, and the demand for tropical products
by the British armies and fleets, there had been great misery among
the population, as well as financial loss. The restoration of
commercial intercourse would benefit the continent as well as the
islands; but the latter more. The prosperity of both would redound to
the welfare of Great Britain; for the one, though now politically
independent, was chained to her commercial system by imperative
circumstances, while of the trade of the other she would have complete
monopoly, except for this tolerance of a strictly local traffic with
the adjoining continent. As for British navigation, the supreme
interest, Pitt believed that it would receive more enlargement from
the increase of productiveness in the islands, and of consequent
demand for British manufactures, than it would suffer loss by American
navigation. More commerce, more ships. Then, as at the present day,
the interests of Great Britain and of the United States, in their
relations to a matter of common external concern, were not opposed,
but complementary; for the prosperity of the islands through America
would make for the prosperity of Great Britain through the islands.

This, however, was just the point disputed; and, in default of the
experience which the coming years were to furnish, fears not wholly
unreasonable, from the particular point of view of sea power, as then
understood, were aroused by the known facts of American shipping
enterprise, both as ship-builders and carriers, even under colonial
trammels. John Adams, who was minister to Great Britain from 1785 to
1788, had frequent cause to note the deep and general apprehension
there entertained of the United States as a rival maritime state. The
question of admission to the colonial trade, as it presented itself to
most men of the day, was one of defence and of offence, and was
complicated by several considerations. As a matter of fact, there was
no denying the existence of that transatlantic commercial system, in
which the former colonies had been so conspicuous a factor, the sole
source of certain supplies to an important market, reflecting therein
exactly Great Britain's own position relatively to the consumers of
the European continent. The prospect of reviving what had always been
an _imperium in imperio_, but now uncontrolled by the previous
conditions of political subjection, seemed ominous; and besides, there
was cherished the hope, ill-founded and delusive though it was, that
the integrity of the empire as a self-sufficing whole, broken by
recent revolt, might be restored by strong measures, coercive towards
the commerce of the United States, and protective towards Canada and
the other remaining continental colonies. It was believed by some that
the agriculture, shipping, and fisheries of Canada, Nova Scotia, and
Newfoundland, despite the obstacles placed by nature, could be so
fostered as to supply the needs of the West Indies, and to develop
also a population of consumers bound to take off British manufactures,
as the lost colonists used to do. This may be styled the constructive
idea, in Sheffield's series of propositions, looking to the
maintenance of the British carrying trade at the expense of that of
the United States. This expectation proved erroneous. Up to and
through the War of 1812, the British provinces, so far from having a
surplus for export, had often to depend upon the United States for
much of the supplies which Sheffield expected them to send to the West

The proposition was strongly supported also by a wish to aid the
American loyalists, who, to the number of many thousands, had fled
from the old colonies to take refuge in the less hospitable North.
These men, deprived of their former resources, and having a new start
in life to make, desired that the West India market should be reserved
for them, to build up their local industries. Their influence was
exerted in opposition to the planters, and the mother country justly
felt itself bound to their relief by strong obligation. Conjoined to
this was doubtless the less worthy desire to punish the successful
rebellion, as well as to hinder the growth of a competitor. "If I had
not been here and resided here some time," wrote John Adams, in 1785,
"I should not have believed, nor could have conceived, such an union
of all Parliamentary factions against us, which is a demonstration of
the unpopularity of our cause."[69] "Their direct object is not so
much the increase of their own wealth, ships, or sailors, as the
diminution of ours. A jealousy of our naval power is the true motive,
the real passion which actuates them. They consider the United States
as their rival, and the most dangerous rival they have in the world. I
can see clearly they are less afraid of the augmentation of French
ships and sailors than American. They think they foresee that if the
United States had the same fisheries, carrying trade, and same market
for ready-built ships, they had ten years ago, they would be in so
respectable a position, and in so happy circumstances, that British
seamen, manufacturers, and merchants too, would hurry over to
them."[70] These statements, drawn from Adams's association with many
men, reflect so exactly the line of argument in the best known of the
many controversial pamphlets published about that time,--Lord
Sheffield's "Observations on the Commerce of the American States,"--as
to prove that it represented correctly a preponderant popular feeling,
not only adverse to the restoration of the colonial privileges
contemplated by Pitt, but distinctly inimical to the new nation; a
feeling born of past defeat and of present apprehension.

Inextricably associated with this feeling was the conviction that the
navigation supported by the sugar islands, being a monopoly always
under the control of the mother country, and ministering to the
_entrepôt_ on which so much other shipping depended, was the one sure
support of the general carrying trade of the nation. "Considering the
bulk of West India commodities," Sheffield had written, "and the
universality and extent of the consumption of sugar, a consumption
still in its infancy even in Europe, and still more in America, it is
not improbable that in a few ages the nation which may be in
possession of the most extensive and best cultivated sugar islands,
_subject to a proper policy_,[71] will take the lead at sea." Men of
all schools concurred in this general view, which is explanatory of
much of the course pursued by the British Government, alike in
military enterprise, commercial regulation, and political belligerent
measures, during the approaching twenty years of war with France. It
underlay Pitt's subsequent much derided, but far from unwise, care to
get the whole West India region under British control, by conquering
its sugar islands. It underlay also the other measures, either
instituted or countenanced by him, or inherited from his general war
policy, which led through ever increasing exasperation to the war with
the United States. The question, however, remained, "What is the
proper policy conducive to the end which all desire?" Those who
thought with Pitt in 1783 urged that to increase the facilities of the
islands, by abundant supplies from the nearest and best source, in
America, would so multiply the material of commerce as most to promote
the necessary navigation. The West India planters pressed this view
with forcible logic. "Navigation and naval power are not the parents
of commerce, but its happy fruits. If mutual wants did not furnish the
subject of intercourse between distant countries, there would soon be
an end of navigation. The carrying trade is of great importance, but
it is of greater still to have trade to carry." To this the reply
substantially was that if the trade were thrown open to Americans, by
allowing them to carry in their own vessels, the impetus so given to
their navigation, with the cheapness of their ships, owing to the
cheapness of materials, would make them carriers to the whole world,
breaking up the monopoly of British merchants, and supplanting the
employment of British ships.

A few statesmen, more far seeing and deeper reasoning,--notably Edmund
Burke,--came to Pitt's support, and the West India proprietors,
largely resident in England, by their knowledge of details contributed
much to elucidate the facts; but their efforts were unavailing. Their
argument ran thus: "Only the American continent can furnish at
reasonable rates the animals required for the agriculture of the
islands, the food for the slaves, the lumber for buildings and for
packing produce. Only the continent will take the rum which Europe
refuses, and with which the planter pays his running expenses. Owing
to irreversible currents of trade, neither British nor island shipping
can carry this traffic at a profit to themselves, except by ruinously
overcharging the planter. Americans only can do it. Concede the
exchange by this means, and the development of sugar and coffee
raising, owing to their bulk as freight, will enlarge British shipping
to Europe by an amount much beyond that lost in the local transport.
Of the European carriage you will retain a monopoly, as you will of
the produce, which goes into your storehouses alone; whence you reap
the advantage of brokerage and incidental handling, at the expense of
the continental consumer, while your home navigation is enlarged by
its export. Refuse this privilege, and your islands sink under French
and Spanish competition. French Santo Domingo, especially, exceeds by
far all your possessions, both in the extent of soil and quality of
product." Very shortly they were able also to say that the French
allowed ships to be bought from Americans; and, although in their
treaty with the United States they had refused free intercourse to
American vessels, a royal ordinance of 1784 permitted it to vessels of
under sixty tons' burden.

Within a month of the introduction of Pitt's bill the ministry to
which he then belonged fell. The one which followed refrained from
dealing at all with the subject, except by recourse to an expedient
not uncommon with party leaders, dealing with a new question of
admitted intricacy. They passed a bill leaving the whole matter to the
Crown for executive action. Accordingly, in July, 1783, a proclamation
was issued permitting intercourse between the islands and the
American continent, in a long list of specified articles, but only by
British ships, owned and navigated as required by the Navigation Act.
American vessels were excluded by omission, and while most necessaries
for food, agriculture, and commerce were admitted, one staple article,
salt fish, urgently requested by the planters, was forbidden. This was
partly to encourage the Newfoundland fisheries and those of Great
Britain, and partly to injure American. Both objects were in the line
of the Navigation Act, to foster home navigation and impede that of
foreigners; fisheries being considered a prime support of each. A
generation before, the elder Pitt had inveighed against the Peace of
Paris, in 1763, on account of the concession of the cod fisheries.
"You leave to France," he said, "the opportunity of reviving her
navy." Before the separation, the near and great market of the West
India negro population had consumed one-third of the American catch of
fish. So profitable a condition could no longer be continued. Salt
provisions also, butter, and cheese, were not allowed, being reserved
for Irish producers.[72]

The next December the enabling bill was renewed and the proclamation
re-issued. At this moment Pitt returned to office. A few months later,
in the spring of 1784, Parliament was dissolved, and the ensuing
elections carried him into power at the head of a great majority. He
made no immediate attempt to resume legislation favoring the American
trade with the West Indies. The disposition of the majority of
Englishmen in the matter had been plainly shown, and other more urgent
commercial reforms engaged his attention. Soon after the receipt of
the news in America, some of the states passed retaliatory measures,
on their own account, or authorized the Continental Congress so to act
for them. The bad feeling already caused by the non-fulfilment, on
both sides, of certain stipulations of the treaty of peace was
particularly exasperated by this proclamation; for anticipation,
aroused by Pitt's proposed measure, had been nursed into confident
expectation during the four months' interval, in which intercourse had
been openly or tacitly allowed. It was at this period that Nelson
first came conspicuously into public notice, by checking the
connivance of the West Indian governors in the infractions of the
Navigation Laws; the Act authorizing commanders of Kings' ships to
seize offending vessels, and bring them before the Court of
Admiralty.[73] It is said also that his experience had much to do with
shaping subsequent legislation upon the same prohibitory lines. In
America disappointment was bitter. Little concern was felt in England.
Concerted action by several states was thought most unlikely, and a
more perfect union impossible. While Massachusetts, for example, in
1785 forbade import or export in any vessel belonging in whole or in
part to British subjects, the state then next to her in maritime
importance, Pennsylvania, in 1786 repealed laws imposing extra charges
on British ships, and admitted all nations on equal terms with her
sister states. "The ministry in England," wrote Adams, "build all
their hopes and schemes upon the supposition of such divisions in
America as will forever prevent a combination of the States, either in
prohibition or in retaliatory duties."[74]

Effective retaliation consequently was not feared, and as for results
otherwise, it was doubtless thought best to await the test of
experience. Proclamation, annually authorized and re-issued, remained
therefore the mode of regulating commerce between the British
dominions and the United States up to the date of Jay's treaty. Once
only, in 1788, Parliament interfered so far as to pass a law,
confining the trade with the West Indies to British-built ships and
to certain enumerated articles, in the strict spirit of the Navigation
system. Otherwise, intercourse with the United States was throughout
this period subject at any moment to be modified or annulled by the
single will of the Executive; whereas that with other nations, fixed
by statute,--the Navigation Act,--could be altered only by the

Of this British commercial policy, following immediately upon the
recognition of independence, Americans had not the slightest reason to
complain. They had insisted upon being independent, and it would be
babyish to fret about the consequences, when unpalatable. It was
unpleasant to find that Great Britain, satisfied that the carrying
trade was the first of her interests, upon which depended her naval
supremacy, rigorously excluded Americans from branches of that trade
before permitted to them; but in so doing she was simply seeking her
own advantage by means of her own laws, as a nation does, for
instance, when it imposes heavy protective duties. It is quite as
legitimate to protect the carrying trade as any other form of
industry; and the Navigation Act was no new device, for the special
annoyance of Americans. It is very possible that the action of Great
Britain at this time was so stupid, that, to use words of Jefferson's,
the only way to prophesy what she would do was to ascertain what she
ought to do, and infer the contrary. The rule, he said, never failed.
This particular stupidity, if such it were,--and there was at least
partial ground for the charge,--was simply another case of a most
common form of human dulness of perception, preoccupation with a fixed
idea. But were the policy wise or foolish, as regards herself, towards
the Americans it was not a wrong, but an injury; and, consequently,
what the newly independent people had to do was not to complain, but
to strike back with retaliatory commercial measures. Jefferson, no
friend generally to coercive action, wrote concerning this particular
situation, "It is not to the moderation or justice of others we are to
trust for fair and equal access to market with our productions, or for
our due share in the transportation of them; but to our own means of
independence, and the firm will to use them."[76]

Equally, when Great Britain, under the emergencies of the French
Revolution, resorted to measures that overpassed her rights, either
municipal or international, and infringed our own, the resort should
have been to the remedy with which nations defend their rights, as
distinct from their interest. The American people, then poor, and
habituated to colonial dependence, failed to create for themselves in
due time the power necessary to self-assertion; nor did they as a
nation realize, what men like John Adams and Gouverneur Morris saw and
preached, that in the complicated tangle of warring interests which
constitutes every contemporary situation, the influence of any single
factor depends, not merely upon its own value, but upon that value
taken in connection with other conditions. A pound is but a pound; but
when the balance is nearly equal, a pound may turn a scale. Because
America could not possibly put afloat the hundred--or two
hundred--ships-of-the-line which Great Britain had in commission,
therefore, many argued, as many do to-day, it was vain to have any
navy. "I believe," wrote Morris in 1794,[77] and few men better
understood financial conditions, "that we could now maintain twelve
ships-of-the-line, perhaps twenty, with a due proportion of frigates
and smaller vessels. And I am tolerably certain that, while the United
States of America pursue a just and liberal conduct, _with twenty
sail-of-the-line at sea_, no nation on earth will dare to insult them.
I believe also, that, not to mention individual losses, five years of
war would involve more national expense than the support of a navy for
twenty years. One thing I am thoroughly convinced of, that, if we do
not render ourselves respectable, we shall continue to be insulted."

A singular, and too much disregarded, instance of the insults to which
the United States was exposed, by the absence of naval strength, is
found in the action of the Barbary Powers towards our commerce, which
scarcely dared to enter the Mediterranean. It is less known that this
condition of things was eminently satisfactory to British politicians
of the old-fashioned school, and as closely linked as was the
Navigation system itself to the ancient rivalry with Holland. "Our
ships," wrote the Dutch statesman De Witt, who died in 1672, "should
be well guarded by convoy against the Barbary pirates. Yet it would by
no means be proper to free that sea of those pirates, because we
should hereby be put upon the same footing with East-landers, [_i.e._,
Baltic nations, Denmark, Sweden, etc.] English, Spaniards, and
Italians; wherefore it is best to leave that thorn in the sides of
those nations, whereby they will be distressed in that trade, while we
by convoy engross all the European traffic and navigation."[78] This
cynical philosophy was echoed in 1784 by the cultured English
statesman, Lord Sheffield, the intimate friend of the historian
Gibbon, and editor of his memoirs. "If the great maritime powers know
their interests," he wrote, "they will not encourage the Americans to
be carriers. That the Barbary States are an advantage to the maritime
powers is obvious. If they were suppressed, the little states of
Italy, etc., would have much more of the carrying trade. The Armed
Neutrality would be as hurtful to the great maritime powers as the
Barbary States are useful."[79]

It may be a novel thought to many Americans, that at that time
American commerce in the Mediterranean depended largely for protection
upon Portuguese cruisers; its own country extending none. When peace
was unexpectedly made between Portugal and Algiers in 1793, through
the interposition of a British consular officer, a wail of dismay went
up to heaven from American shipmen. "The conduct of the British in
this business," wrote the American consul at Lisbon, "leaves no room
to doubt or mistake their object, which was evidently aimed at us, and
that they will leave nothing unattempted to effect our ruin." It
proved, indeed, that the British consul's action was not that of his
Government, but taken on his own initiative; but the incident not only
recalls the ideas of the time, long since forgotten, but in its
indications, both of British commercial security and American
exposure, illustrates the theory of the Navigation Act as to the
reciprocal influence of the naval and merchant services. There was
then nothing, in the economical conditions of the United States, to
forbid a navy stronger than the Portuguese; yet the consul, in his
pitiful appeal to the Portuguese Court, had to write: "My countrymen
have been led into their present embarrassment by confiding in the
friendship, power, and protection of her Most Faithful Majesty," ...
which "lulled our citizens into a fatal security."[80] Our lamentable
dependence upon others, for the respect we should have extorted
ourselves, is shown in the instructions issued to Jay, on his mission
to England in 1794. "It may be represented to the British Ministry,
how productive of perfect conciliation it might be to the people of
the United States, if Great Britain would use her influence with the
Dey of Algiers for the liberation of the American citizens in
captivity, and for a peace upon reasonable terms. It has been
communicated from abroad, to be the fixed policy of Great Britain to
check our trade in grain to the Mediterranean. This is too doubtful to
be assumed, but fit for inquiry."[81] The Dey had declared war in
1785, this being with the Barbary rulers the customary method of
opening piratical action. "If the Dey makes peace with every one,"
said one of his captains to Nelson, "what is he to do with his ships?"

The experience of the succeeding fifteen years was to give ample
demonstration of the truth of Morris's prophecy; but what is
interesting now to observe is, that he, who certainly did not imagine
twenty ships to be equal to a hundred, accurately estimated the
deterrent force of such a body, prepared to act upon an enemy's
communications,--or interests,--at a great distance from the strategic
centre of operations. A valuable military lesson of the War of 1812 is
just this: that a comparatively small force--a few frigates and
sloops--placed as the United States Navy was, can exercise an
influence utterly disproportionate to its own strength. Instances of
Great Britain's extremity, subsequent to Morris's prediction, are
easily cited. In 1796, her fleet was forced to abandon the
Mediterranean. In 1799, a year after the Nile, Nelson had to implore a
small Portuguese division not to relinquish the blockade of Malta,
which he could not otherwise maintain. Under such conditions,
apprehension of even a slight additional burden of hostility imposes
restraint. Had Morris's navy existed in 1800, we probably should have
had no War of 1812; that is, if Jefferson's passion for peace, and
abhorrence of navies, could have been left out of the account. War, as
Napoleon said, is a business of positions. The commercial importance
of the United States, and the position of its navy relatively to the
major interests of Great Britain, would together have produced an
effect, to which, under the political emergency of the time, the mere
commercial retaliation then attempted was quite inadequate. This
distressed the enemy, but did not reduce him; and it bitterly
alienated a large part of our own community, so that we went into the
war a discordant, almost a disunited, nation.

During the years of American impotence under the early confederation,
the trade regulations of the British Government, framed on the lines
advocated by Lord Sheffield, met with a measure of success which was
perhaps more apparent than real; due attention being scarcely paid to
the actual loss entailed upon British planters by the heightened cost
of supplies, and the consequent effect upon British commerce and
navigation. "Under the present limited intercourse with America,"
wrote the planter, Edwards, "the West Indies are subject to three sets
of devouring monopolies: 1, the British ship-owners; 2, their agents
in American ports; 3, their agents in the ports of the islands; all of
whom exact an unnatural profit of the planters."[82] Chalmers, looking
only to the navigation of the kingdom, which these culprits
represented, admits that in the principal supplies Great Britain
cannot compete with America; but, "whatever may be the difference in
price to the West Indians, this is but a small equivalent which they
ought to pay to the British consumer, for enjoying the exclusive
supply of sugar, rum, and other West India products."[83] A few
figures show conclusively that under all disadvantages the islands
increased in actual prosperity, although they fell behind their French
competitors, favored by a more liberal policy. In the quiet year 1770,
before the revolt of the continent, the British West Indies shipped
to the home country produce amounting to £3,279,204;[84] in 1787 this
had risen to £4,839,145,[85] a gain of over 30 per cent. Between the
same years, exports to the United States, limited after the peace to
British ships, had fallen from £481,407 to £196,461. American produce,
confined to British bottoms for admission to British colonies, had
gone largely to the French islands, with which before the Revolution
they could have only surreptitious intercourse. The result was that
the British planter had to pay much more for his plantation supplies
than did the French, who were furnished by American vessels, built and
run much cheaper than British.[86] He was rigidly forbidden also to
seek stores in the French islands. Such circuitous intercourse with
America, by depriving British ships of the long voyage to the
continent, would place the French islands in the obnoxious relation of
_entrepôt_ to their neighbors, which Holland had once occupied towards
England. In all legislation minute care was taken to prevent such
injury to navigation. Direct trade with British dominions was the
fetich of British policy; circuitous trade its abomination.

Despite drawbacks, a distinct advance was observable also in British
navigation; in the development of the British-American colonies,
continental and island; and in the intercolonial intercourse and
shipping. Immediately after the institution of the new government, the
United States enacted laws protective of her own navigation; notably
by an alien duty laid upon all foreign tonnage. To consider the
probable effects of this legislation, and of the new American
institutions, upon British commerce and navigation, a committee of the
Privy Council was appointed, to which we owe a digested and
authoritative summary of the change of conditions effected by the
British measures, between 1783 and 1790. From its report, based upon
averages of several years, it appears that in the direct trade between
Great Britain and the United States, in which American ships stood on
equal terms with British, there had been little variation in value of
imports or exports, with the single exception of tobacco and rice.
These two articles, which formerly had to pass through Great Britain
as an _entrepôt_, now went direct to their destination. The American
shipping--navigation--employed in the trade with Great Britain
herself, was only one-third of the British; the respective tonnage
being 26,564 and 52,595. As this was nearly the proportion of American
to British built ships in the colonial period, American shipping
before the adoption of the Constitution had not gained at all, under
the most favorable treatment conceded to it in British dominions. The
Report, indeed, estimated that it had lost by nearly 20 per cent.[87]

In the colonial trade, on the other hand, very marked British gains
could be reported. The commercially backward communities of Canada,
etc., forbidden now to admit American ships, or to import many
articles from the United States, and given special privileges in the
West Indies, had more than doubled their imports from the mother
country; the amount rising from £379,411 to £829,088. These sums are
not to be regarded in their own triviality, but as harbingers of a
development, which it was hoped would fill the void in the British
imperial system caused by the loss of the former colonies. The West
Indies showed a more gradual increase, though still satisfactory;
their exports since 1774 had risen 20 per cent. It was, however, in
navigation, avowedly the chief aim of the protective legislation, that
the intercolonial results were most encouraging. Through the exclusion
of American competition, British tonnage to Canada and the neighboring
colonies had enlarged fourfold, from 11,219 to 46,106. The national
tonnage engaged between the West Indies and the mother country had
grown from 80,482 to 133,736; 60 per cent. More encouraging still,
from the ideal point of view of a restored system of mutual support,
embracing both sides of the Atlantic, the tonnage employed between
Canada and the West Indies had risen from 996 only in 1774, to 14,513
in 1789. In brief, after a careful and systematic examination of the
whole field, the committee considered that British navigation had
gained 111,638 tons by excluding Americans from branches of trade they
had once shared, and still eagerly desired.

The effects of the system were most conspicuous in the trade between
the West Indies and the United States. The tonnage here employed had
fallen from 107,739, before the war, to 62,738. The reflections of the
Committee upon this particular are so characteristic of national
convictions as to be worth quoting.[88] "This decrease is rather less
than half what it was before the war;[89] but before the war
five-eighths belonged to merchants, permanent inhabitants of the
countries now under the dominion of the United States, and
three-eighths to British merchants residing occasionally in the said
countries. At that time, very few vessels belonging to British
merchants, resident in the British European dominions, or in the
British Islands in the West Indies, had a share in this trade. The
vessels employed in this trade can now only belong to British subjects
_residing_ in the present British dominions. Many vessels now go from
the ports of Great Britain, carrying British manufactures to the
United States, there load with lumber and provisions for the British
Islands in the West Indies, and return with the produce of these
islands to Great Britain. The whole of this branch of freight may also
be considered as a new acquisition, and was obtained by your Majesty's
Order in Council before mentioned,[90] which has operated to the
increase of British Navigation, compared to that of the United States
in a double ratio; _but it has taken from the navigation of the United
States more than it has added to that of Great Britain_."

The last sentence emphasizes the fact, which John Adams had noted,
that the object of the Navigation system was scarcely more defensive
than offensive, in the military sense of the word. The Act carried
provisions meant distinctly to impede the development of foreign
shipping, as far as possible to do so by municipal regulation. The
prohibition of entrance to a port of Great Britain by a foreign
trader, unless three-fourths manned by citizens of the country whose
flag she bore, was distinctly offensive in intent. But for this, other
states might increase their tonnage by employing seamen not their own,
which Great Britain could not do without weakening the reserves
available for her navy, and imperative to her defence. Rivalry was
thus engendered, and became bitter and apprehensive in proportion to
the national interests involved; but at no time had such
considerations persuaded the country to depart from its purpose. "The
foreign war which those measures first brought upon us, and the odium
which they have never ceased to cause, to the present day (1792) among
neighboring nations, have not induced the legislature to give up any
one of its principles."[91] In the case of the United States, the
exasperation aroused was very great. It perpetuated the national
animosity surviving from the War of Independence, and provoked
retaliation. Before the formation of the better Union this was too
desultory and divided to have much effect, and the artificial system
of which Sheffield was the chief public champion had the appearance of
success which has been described; but as soon as the thirteen states
could wield their power as one whole, under a system at once
consistent and permanent, American navigation began to make rapid
headway. In 1790 there entered American ports from abroad 355,000 tons
of American shipping and 251,000 foreign, of which 217,000 were
British.[92] After one year of the discriminating tonnage dues laid by
the national Congress, the American tonnage entering home ports from
Great Britain had risen, from the 26,564 average of the three years,
1787 to 1789, ascertained by the British committee, to 43,580.[93] In
1801 there entered 799,304 tons of native shipping,[94] and but
138,000 foreign.[95] The amount of British among the latter is not
stated; but in the year 1800 there cleared from Great Britain, under
her own flag, for the United States, but 14,381 tons.[96] This
reversal of the conditions in 1787-89, before quoted,[97] was the
result of a gradual progress, noticeable immediately after the
American imposition of tonnage duties, and increasing up to 1793, when
it was accelerated by the war between Great Britain and France.

It is carefully to be remembered that the British committee,
representing strictly the prepossessions of the body by which it was
constituted, looked primarily to the development of national carrying
trade. "As the security of the British dominions principally depends
on the greatness of your Majesty's naval power, it has ever been the
policy of the British Government to watch with a jealous eye every
attempt that has been made by foreign nations to the detriment of its
navigation; and even in cases where the interests of commerce and
those of navigation could not be wholly reconciled, the Government of
Great Britain has always given the preference to the interests of
navigation; and it has never yet submitted to the imposition of any
tonnage duties by foreign nations on British ships trading to their
ports, without proceeding immediately to retaliation."[98] It had,
however, submitted to several such measures, retaliatory for the
exclusion from the West India trade, enacted by the separate states in
the years 1783 to 1789; as well as to other legislation, taxing
British shipping by name much above that of other foreigners. This
quiescence was due to confidence, that the advantages possessed by
Great Britain would enable her to overcome all handicaps. It was
therefore with satisfaction that, after six years of commercial
antagonism, the committee was able, not only to report the growth of
British shipping, already quoted, but to show by the first official
statement of entries issued by the American Government,[99] for the
first year of its own existence, that for every five American tons
entering American ports from over sea, there entered also three
British; and that of the whole foreign tonnage there were six British
to one of all other nations together.

Upon the whole, therefore, while regretting the evidence in the
American statement which showed increasing activity by American
shipping over that ascertained by themselves for the previous
years,--to be accounted for, as was believed, by transient
circumstances,--the committee, after consultation with the leading
merchants in the American trade, thought better to postpone
retaliation for the new tonnage duties, which contained no invidious
distinction in favor of other foreign shipping against British. The
system of trade regulation so far pursued had given good results, and
its continuance was recommended; though bitterly antagonizing
Americans, and maintaining ill-will between the two countries. Upon
one point, especially desired by the United States, the committee was
particularly firm. It considered that its Government might judiciously
make one proposition--and one only--for a commercial treaty; namely,
that there should be entire equality of treatment, as to duties and
tonnage, towards the ships of both nations in the home ports of each
other. "But if Congress should propose (as they certainly will) that
this principle of equality should be extended to the ports of our
Colonies and Islands, and that the ships of the United States should
there be treated as British ships, it should be answered that this
demand cannot be admitted even as a subject of negotiation.... This
branch of freight is of the same nature with the freight from one
American state to another" (that is, trade internal to the empire is
essentially a coasting trade). "Congress has made regulations to
confine the freight, employed between the different states, to the
ships of the United States, and Great Britain does not object to this
restriction."[100] "The great advantages which have resulted from
excluding American ships appear in the accounts given in this report;
many of the merchants and planters of the West Indies, who formerly
resisted this advice, now acknowledge the wisdom of it."[101]

The committee recognized that exclusion from the carrying trade of the
British West Indies was in some degree compensated to the American
carrier, by the permission given by the Government of France for
vessels not exceeding sixty tons to trade with her colonies, actually
much greater producers, and therefore larger customers. Santo Domingo
in particular, in the period following the American war, had enjoyed a
heyday of prosperity, far eclipsing that of all the British islands
together. This was due partly to natural advantages, and partly to
social conditions,--the planters being generally resident, which the
British were not; but cheaper supplies through free intercourse with
the American continent also counted for much. From the French West
Indies there entered the United States in 1790, 101,417 tons of
shipping, of which only 3,925 were French.[102] From the British
Islands there came 90,375, but of these all but 4,057 were
British.[103] Returning, the exports from the United States to the two
were respectively, $3,284,656 and $2,077,757.[104] The flattering
testimony borne by these figures to the meagreness of French
navigation, in the particular quarter, needed doubtless to be
qualified by reference to their home trade from the West Indies, borne
in French ships. This amounted in 1788 to 296,435 tons from Santo
Domingo alone;[105] whereas the British trade from all their islands
employed but 133,736.[106] This, however, was the sole great carrying
trade of France; to the United States she sent from her home ports
less than 13,000 tons.

It was the opinion of the British committee that the privilege
conceded to American shipping in the French islands was so contrary to
established colonial policy as to be of doubtful continuance. Still,
in concluding its report with a summary of American commercial
conditions, which it deemed were in a declining way, it took occasion
to utter a warning, based upon these relations of America with the
foreign colonies. In case of a commercial treaty, "Should it be
proposed to treat on maritime regulations, any article allowing the
ships of the United States to protect the property of the enemies of
Great Britain in time of war" (that is, the flag to cover the goods),
"should on no account be admitted. It would be more dangerous to
concede this privilege to the United States than to any other foreign
country. From their situation, the ships of these states would be able
to cover the whole trade of France and Spain with their islands and
colonies, in America and the West Indies, whenever Great Britain shall
be engaged with either of those Powers; and the navy of Great Britain
would, in such case, be deprived of the means of distressing the
enemy, by destroying his commerce and thereby diminishing his
resources." It is well to note in these words the contemporary
recognition of the importance of the position of the United States; of
the value of the colonial trade; of the bearing of commerce
destruction on war, by "diminishing the resources" of an enemy; and of
the opportunity of the United States, "from their situation," to cover
the carriage of colonial produce to Europe; for upon these several
points turned much of the troubles, which by their accumulation caused
mutual exasperation, and established an antagonism that inevitably
lent itself to the war spirit when occasion arose. The specific
warning of the committee was doubtless elicited by the terms of the
then recent British commercial treaty with France, in 1786, by which
the two nations had agreed that, in case of war to which one was a
party, the vessels of the other might freely carry all kinds of goods,
the property of any person or nation, except contraband. Such a
concession could be made safely to France,--was in fact perfectly
one-sided in favoring Great Britain; but to America it would open
unprecedented opportunity.

To the state of things so far described came the French Revolution;
already begun, indeed, when the committee sat, but the course of which
could not yet be foreseen. Its coincidence with the formation of the
new government of the United States is well to be remembered; for the
two events, by their tendencies, worked together to promote the
antagonism between the United States and Great Britain, which was
already latent in the navigation system of the one and the maritime
aptitudes of the other. Washington, the first American President, was
inaugurated in March, 1789; in May, the States General of France met.
In February, 1793, the French Republic declared war against Great
Britain, and in March Washington entered on his second term. In the
intervening four years the British Government had persisted in
maintaining the exclusion of American carrying trade from her colonial
ports. During the same period the great French colony Santo Domingo
had undergone a social convulsion, which ended in the wreck of its
entire industrial system by the disappearance of slavery, and with it
of all white government. The huge sugar and coffee product of the
island vanished as a commercial factor, and with it the greater part
of the colonial carriage of supplies, which had indemnified American
shippers and agriculturists for their exclusion from British ports. Of
167,399 American tonnage entering American ports from the West Indies
in 1790, 101,417 had been from French islands.

The removal of so formidable a competitor as Santo Domingo of course
inured to the advantage of the British sugar and coffee planter, who
was thus more able to bear the burden laid upon him to maintain the
navigation of the empire, by paying a heavy percentage on his
supplies. This, however, was not the only change in conditions
affecting commerce and navigation. By 1793 it had become evident that
Canada, Nova Scotia, and their neighbors, could not fill the place in
an imperial system which it had been hoped they would take, as
producers of lumber and food stuffs. This increased the relative
importance of the West India Islands to the empire, just when the rise
in price of sugar and coffee made it more desirable to develop their
production. Should war come, the same reason would make it expedient
to extend by conquest British productive territory in the Caribbean,
and at the same time to cut off the supplies of such enemy's
possessions as could not be subdued; thus crippling them, and removing
their competition by force, as that of Santo Domingo had been by
industrial ruin. These considerations tended further to fasten the
interest of Great Britain upon this whole region, as particularly
conducive to her navigation system. That cheapening supplies would
stimulate production, to meet the favorable market and growing demands
of the world, had been shown by the object-lesson of the French
colonies; though as yet the example had not been followed.

At this time also Great Britain had to recognize her growing
dependence upon the sea, because her home territory had ceased to be
self-sufficing. Her agriculture was becoming inadequate to feeding her
people, in whose livelihood manufactures and commerce were playing an
increasing part. Both these, as well as food from abroad, required the
command of the sea, in war as in peace, to import raw materials and
export finished products; and control of the sea required increase of
naval resources, proportioned to the growing commercial movement.
According to the ideas of the age, the colonial monopoly was the
surest means to this. It was therefore urgent to resort to measures
which should develop the colonies; and the question was inevitable
whether reserving to British navigation the trade by which they were
supplied was not more than compensated by the diminished production,
with its effect in lessening the cargoes employing shipping for the
homeward voyage.

Thus things were when war broke out. The two objects, or motives,
which have been indicated, came then at once into play. The conquest
of the French West Indies, a perfectly legitimate move, was speedily
undertaken; and meanwhile orders passing the bounds of recognized
international law were issued, to suppress, by capture, their
intercourse with the United States, alike in import and export. The
blow of course fell upon American shipping, by which this traffic was
almost wholly maintained. This was the beginning of a long series of
arbitrary measures, dictated by a policy uniform in principle, though
often modified by dictates of momentary expediency. It lasted for
years in its various manifestations, the narration of which belongs to
subsequent chapters. Complementary to this was the effort to develop
production in British colonies, by extending to them the neutral
carriage denied to their enemies. This was effected by allowing direct
trade between them and the United States to American vessels of not
over seventy tons; a limit substantially the same as that before
imposed by France, and designed to prevent their surreptitiously
conveying the cargoes to Europe, to the injury of British monopoly of
the continental supply, effected by the _entrepôt_ system, and doubly
valuable since the failure of French products.

This concession to American navigation, despite the previous
opposition, had become possible to Pitt, partly because its
advisability had been demonstrated and the opportunity recognized;
partly, also, because the immense increase of the active navy, caused
by the war, created a demand for seamen, which by impressment told
heavily upon the merchant navigation of the kingdom, fostered for this
very purpose. To meet this emergency, it was clearly politic to
devolve the supply of the British West Indies upon neutral carriers,
who would enjoy an immunity from capture denied to merchant ships of a
belligerent, as well as relieve British navigation of a function which
it had never adequately fulfilled. The measure was in strict accord
with the usual practice of remitting in war the requirement of the
Navigation Act, that three-fourths of all crews should be British
subjects; by which means a large number of native seamen became at
once released to the navy. To throw open a reserved trade to foreign
ships, and a reserved employment to foreign seamen, are evidently only
different applications of the one principle, viz.: to draw upon
foreign aid, in a crisis to which the national navigation was unequal.

Correlative to these measures, defensive in character, was the
determination that the enemy should be deprived of these benefits;
that, so far as international law could be stretched, neutral ships
should not help him as they were encouraged to help the British. The
welfare of the empire also demanded that native seamen should not be
allowed to escape their liability to impressment, by serving in
neutral vessels. The lawless measures taken to insure these two
objects were the causes avowed by the United States in 1812 for
declaring war. The impressment of American seamen, however, although
numerous instances had already occurred, had not yet made upon the
national consciousness an impression at all proportionate to the
magnitude of the wrong; and the instructions given to Jay,[107] as
special envoy in 1794, while covering many points at issue, does not
mention this, which eventually overtopped all others.


[54] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 121.

[55] Commerce of the American States (Edition February, 1784), pp.

[56] Works of John Adams, vol. viii. p. 290.

[57] Washington's Correspondence, 1787, edited by W.C. Ford, vol.
viii. pp. 159, 160, 254.

[58] Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, Jan. 28, 1791, p.

[59] Chalmers, Opinions, p. 32.

[60] Jurien de la Gravière, Guerres Maritimes, Paris, 1847, vol. ii.
p. 238.

[61] Canada, Newfoundland, Bermuda, etc.

[62] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 303.

[63] p. 288.

[64] Coxe, View of the United States, p. 346.

[65] Reeves, p. 381. Nevertheless, foreign nations frequently
complained of this as a distinction against them (Report of the
Committee of the Privy Council, Jan. 28, 1791, p. 10).

[66] Bryan Edwards, West Indies, vol. ii. p. 494 (note).

[67] Coxe's View, p. 318.

[68] American State Papers, Foreign Affairs, vol. i. p. 301. Jefferson
added, "These imports consist mostly of articles on which industry has
been exhausted,"--_i.e._, completed manufactures. The State Papers,
Commerce and Navigation, give the tabulated imports and exports for
many succeeding years.

[69] Works of John Adams, vol. viii. p. 333.

[70] Works of John Adams, vol. viii. p. 291.

[71] My italics.

[72] Chalmers, Opinions, p. 65.

[73] Reeves, pp. 47, 57.

[74] Works of John Adams, vol. viii. p. 281.

[75] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 307.

[76] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 304.

[77] Morris to Randolph (Secretary of State), May 31, 1794. American
State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 409. The italics are

[78] Quoted from De Witt's Interest of Holland, in Macpherson's Annals
of Commerce, vol. ii. p. 472.

[79] Observations on the Commerce of the American States, 1783, p.
115. Concerning this pamphlet, Gibbon wrote, "The Navigation Act, the
palladium of Britain, was defended, perhaps saved, by his pen."

[80] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. pp. 296-299.

[81] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 474.

[82] West Indies, vol. ii. page 522, note.

[83] Opinions, p. 89.

[84] Macpherson, vol. iii. p. 506.

[85] Ibid., vol. iv. p. 158.

[86] Bryan Edwards, himself a planter of the time, says (vol. ii. p.
522) that staves and lumber had risen 37 per cent in the British
islands, which he attributes to the extortions of the navigation
monopoly, "under the present limited intercourse with America." Coxe
(View, etc., p. 134) gives lists of comparative prices, in 1790, June
to November, in the neighboring islands of Santo Domingo and Jamaica,
which show forcibly the burdens under which the latter labored.

[87] Chalmers, in one of his works quoted by Macpherson (vol. iii. p.
559), estimates the annual entries of American-built ships to British
ports, 1771-74, to be 34,587 tons. From this figure the falling off
was marked.

[88] Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, Jan. 28, 1791, p.

[89] This awkward expression means that the amount of decrease was
rather less than half the before-the-war total.

[90] June 18, 1784, substantially the re-issue of that of Dec. 26,
1783, which Reeves (p. 288) considers the standard exemplar.

[91] Reeves, p. 431.

[92] American State Papers, Commerce and Navigation, vol. x. p. 389.

[93] Ibid., Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 301.

[94] Ibid., Commerce and Navigation, vol. x. p. 528.

[95] Ibid., p. 584.

[96] Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, vol. iv. p. 535.

[97] Ante, pp. 77, 78.

[98] Report of the Committee, p. 85.

[99] Ibid., p. 52.

[100] Report, p. 96.

[101] Ibid., p. 94.

[102] American State Papers, Commerce and Navigation, vol. x. p. 47.

[103] Ibid., p. 45.

[104] Ibid., p. 24.

[105] Coxe, p. 171.

[106] Committee's estimate; Report, p. 43.

[107] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 472.

    [Illustration: JOHN JAY
    From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in Bedford (Jay) House,
    Katonah, N.Y.]




While there were many matters in dispute between the two countries,
the particular occasion of Jay's mission to London in 1794 was the
measures injurious to the commerce of the United States, taken by the
British Government on the outbreak of war with France, in 1793.
Neutrals are certain to suffer, directly and indirectly, from every
war, and especially in maritime wars; for then the great common of all
nations is involved, under conditions and regulations which by general
consent legalize interference, suspension, and arrest of neutral
voyages, when conflicting with acknowledged belligerent rights, or
under reasonable suspicion of such conflict. It was held in the United
States that in the treatment of American ships Great Britain had
transcended international law, and abused belligerent privilege, by
forced construction in two particulars. First, in June, 1793, she sent
into her own ports American vessels bound to France with provisions,
on the ground that under existing circumstance these were contraband
of war. She did indeed buy the cargoes, and pay the freight, thus
reducing the loss to the shipper; but he was deprived of the surplus
profit arising from extraordinary demand in France, and it was claimed
besides that the procedure was illegal. Secondly, in November of the
same year, the British Government directed the seizure of "all ships
laden with goods the produce of any colony belonging to France, or
carrying provisions or other supplies for the use of any such colony."
Neutrals were thus forbidden either to go to, or to sail from, any
French colony for purposes of commercial intercourse. For the injuries
suffered under these measures Jay was to seek compensation.

The first order raised only a question of contraband, of frequent
recurrence in all hostilities. It did not affect the issues which led
to the War of 1812, and therefore need not here be further considered.
But the second turned purely on the question of the intercourse of
neutrals with the colonies of belligerents, and rested upon those
received opinions concerning the relations of colonies to mother
countries, which have been related in the previous chapters. The
British Government founded the justification of its action upon a
precedent established by its own Admiralty courts, which, though not
strictly new, was recent, dating back only to the Seven Years' War,
1756-63, whence it had received the name of the Rule of 1756. At that
time, in the world of European civilization, all the principal
maritime communities were either mother countries or colonies. A
colonial system was the appendage of every maritime state; and among
all there obtained the invariable rule, the formulation of which by
Montesquieu has been already quoted, that "commercial monopoly is the
leading principle of colonial intercourse," from which foreign states
were rigorously excluded. Dealing with such a recognized international
relation, at a period when colonial production had reached
unprecedented proportions, the British courts had laid down the
principle that a trade which a nation in time of peace forbade to
foreigners could not be extended to them, if neutrals, in time of war,
at the will and for the convenience of the belligerent; because by
such employment they were "in effect incorporated in the enemy's
navigation, having adopted his commerce and character, and identified
themselves with his interests and purposes."[108]

During the next great maritime war, that of American Independence, the
United States were involved as belligerents, and the only maritime
neutrals were Holland and the Baltic States. These drew together in a
league known historically as the Armed Neutrality of 1780, in
opposition to certain British interpretations of the rights of
neutrals and belligerents; but in their formulated demands that of
open trade with the colonies of belligerents does not appear, although
there is found one closely cognate to it,--an asserted right to
coasting trade, from port to port, of a country at war. The Rule of
1756 therefore remained, in 1793, a definition of international
maritime law laid down by British courts, but not elsewhere accepted;
and it rested upon a logical deduction from a system of colonial
administration universal at that period. The logical deduction may be
stated thus. The mother country, for its own benefit, reserves to
itself both the inward and outward trade; the products of the colony,
and the supplying of it with necessaries. The carriage of these
commodities is also confined to its own ships. Colonial commerce and
navigation are thus each a national monopoly. To open to neutrals the
navigation, the carriage of products and supplies, in time of war, is
a war measure simply, designed to preserve a benefit endangered by the
other belligerent. As a war measure, it tends to support the financial
and naval strength of the nation employing it; and therefore, to an
opponent whose naval power is capable of destroying that element of
strength, the stepping in of a neutral to cover it is clearly an
injury. The neutral so doing commits an unfriendly act, partial
between the two combatants; because it aids the one in a proceeding,
the origin and object of which are purely belligerent.

When the United States in 1776 entered the family of nations, she came
without colonies, but in the war attendant upon her liberation she had
no rights as a neutral. In the interval of peace, between 1783 and
1793, she had endeavored, as has been seen, to establish between
herself and the Caribbean region those conditions of open navigation
which were indicated as natural by the geographical relations of the
two and their several products. This had been refused by Great
Britain; but France had conceded it on a restricted scale, plainly
contrived, by the limitation of sixty tons on the size of vessels
engaged, to counteract any attempt at direct carriage from the islands
to Europe, which was not permitted. Under these circumstances the
United States was brought into collision with the Rule of 1756, for
the first time, by the Order in Council of November 6, 1793. A people
without colonies, and with a rapidly growing navigation, could have no
sympathy with a system, coextensive with Europe, which monopolized the
carriage of colonial products. The immediate attitude assumed was one
of antagonism; and the wrong as felt was the greater, because the
direct intercourse between the United States and the then great French
colonies was not incidental to war, but had been established in peace.
In principle, the Rule rested for its validity upon an exception made
in war, for the purposes of war.

The British Government in fact had overlooked that the Rule had
originated in European conditions; and, if applicable at all to the
new transatlantic state, it could only be if conditions were the same,
or equivalent. Till now, by universal usage, trade from colonies had
been only to the mother country; the appearance of an American state
with no colonies introduced two factors hitherto non-existent. Here
was a people not identified with a general system of colonial
exclusiveness; and also, from their geographical situation, it was
possible for a European government to permit them to trade with its
colonies, without serious trespass on the privileges reserved to the
mother country. The monopoly of the latter consisted not only in the
commerce and carrying trade of the colony, but in the _entrepôt_; that
is, in the receipt and storage of the colonial produce, and its
distribution to less favored European communities,--the profit, in
short, of the middleman, or broker. France had recognized, though but
partially, this difference of conditions, and in somewhat grudging
manner had opened her West Indian ports to American vessels, for
intercourse with their own country. This trade, being permitted in
peace, did not come under the British Rule; therefore by its own
principle the seizures under it were unlawful. Accordingly, on January
8, 1794, the order was revoked, and the application limited to vessels
bound from the West Indies direct to Europe.

This further Order in Council preserved the principle of the Rule of
1756, but it removed the cause of a great number of the seizures which
had afflicted American shipping. There were nevertheless, among these,
some cases of vessels bound direct to France from French colonies,
laden with colonial produce; one of which was the first presented to
Jay on his arrival in London. In writing to the Secretary of State he
says, "It unfortunately happens that this is not among the strongest
of the cases;" and in a return made three years later to Congress, of
losses recovered under the treaty, this vessel's name does not appear.
In the opinion of counsel, submitted to Jay, it was unlikely that the
case would be reversed on appeal, because it unequivocally fell under
the Rule.[109] It is therefore to be inferred that this principle, the
operation of which was revived so disastrously in 1805, was not
surrendered by the British Government in 1794. In fact, in the
discussions between Mr. Jay and the British Minister of Foreign
Affairs, there seems to have been on both sides a disposition to avoid
pronouncements upon points of abstract right. It remained the constant
policy of British negotiators, throughout this thorny period, to seek
modes of temporary arrangement, which should obviate immediate causes
of complaint; leaving principles untouched, to be asserted, if
desirable, at a more favorable moment. This was quite contrary to the
wishes of the United States Government, which repeatedly intimated to
Jay that in the case of the Rule of 1756 it desired to settle the
question of principle, which it denied. To this it had attached
several other topics touching maritime neutral rights, such as the
flag covering the cargo, and matters of contraband.[110]

Jay apparently satisfied himself, by his interviews and observation of
public feeling in England, that at the moment it was vain for a
country without a navy to expect from Great Britain any surrender of
right, as interpreted by her jurists; that the most to be accomplished
was the adoption of measures which should as far as possible extend
the immediate scope of American commerce, and remove its present
injuries, presenting withal a probability of future further
concessions. In his letter transmitting the treaty, he wrote: "That
Britain, at this period, and involved in war, should not admit
principles which would impeach the propriety of her conduct in seizing
provisions bound to France, and enemy's property on board neutral
vessels, does not appear to me extraordinary. The articles, as they
now stand, secure compensation for seizures, and leave us at liberty
to decide whether they were made in such cases as to be warranted by
the _existing_ law of nations."[111] The italics are Jay's, and the
expression is obscure; but it seems to imply that, while either
nation, in their respective claims for damages, would be bound by the
decision of the commissioners provided for their settlement by the
treaty, it would preserve the right to its own opinion as to whether
the decision was in accordance with admitted law, binding in the
future. In short, acceptance of the Rule of 1756 would not be affected
by the findings upon the claims. If adverse to Great Britain, she
could still assert the Rule in times to come, if expedient; if against
the United States, she likewise, while submitting, reserved the right
of protest, with or without arms, against its renewed enforcement.

"As to the principles we contend for," continued Jay, "you will find
them saved in the conclusion of the twelfth article, from which it
will appear that we still adhere to them." This conclusion specifies
that after the termination of a certain period, during which Great
Britain would open to American vessels the carrying trade between her
West India Islands and the United States, there should be further
negotiation, looking to the extension of mutual intercourse; "and the
said parties will then endeavor to agree whether, in any, and what,
cases neutral vessels shall protect enemy's property; and in what
cases provisions and other articles, not generally contraband, may
become such. But in the meantime, their conduct towards each other in
these respects shall be regulated by the articles hereinafter inserted
on those subjects."[112] The treaty therefore was a temporary
arrangement, to meet temporary difficulties, and involved no surrender
of principle on either side. Although the Rule of 1756 is not
mentioned, it evidently shared the same fate as the other American
propositions looking to the settlement of principles; the more so that
subsequent articles admitted, not only the undoubted rule that the
neutral flag did not cover enemy's goods, but also the vehemently
disputed claim that naval stores and provisions were, or might be,
contraband of war. Further evidence of the understanding of Great
Britain in this matter is afforded by a letter of the law adviser of
the Crown, transmitted in 1801 by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to
Mr. King, then United States Minister. "The direct trade between the
mother country and its colonies has not during this present war been
recognized as legal, either by his Majesty's Government or by his

It is to be inferred that the Administration and the Senate, while
possibly thinking Jay too yielding as a negotiator, reached the
conclusion that his estimate of British feeling, formed upon the spot,
was correct as to the degree of concession then to be obtained. At all
events, the treaty, which provided for mixed commissions to adjudicate
upon the numerous seizures made under the British orders, and, under
certain conditions, admitted American vessels to branches of British
trade previously closed to them, was ratified with the exception of
the twelfth article. This conferred on Americans the privilege, long
and urgently desired, of direct trade between their own country and
the British West Indies on the same terms as British ships, though in
vessels of limited size. Greatly desired as this permission had been,
it came coupled with the condition, not only that cargoes from the
islands should be landed in the United States alone, but also, while
the concession lasted, American vessels should not carry "molasses,
sugar, coffee, cocoa, or cotton" from the United States to any part of
the world. By strict construction, this would prevent re-exporting the
produce of French or other foreign colonies; a traffic, the extent of
which during this war may be conceived by the returns for a single
year, 1796, when United States shipping carried to Europe thirty-five
million pounds of sugar and sixty-two million pounds of coffee,
products of the Caribbean region. This article was rejected by the
Senate, and the treaty ratified without it; but the coveted privilege
was continued by British executive order, the regulations in the
matter being suspended on account of the war, and the trade opened to
American as well as British ships. Ostensibly a favor, not resting on
the obligations of treaty, but on the precarious ground of the
Government's will, its continuance was assured under the circumstances
of the time by its practical utility to Great Britain; for the trade
of that country, and its vital importance in the prevailing wars, were
developing at a rate which outstripped its own tonnage. The numbers of
native seamen were likewise inadequate, through the heavy demands of
the Navy for men. The concurrence of neutrals was imperative. Under
the conditions it was no slight advantage to have the islands supplied
and the American market retained, by the services of American vessels,
leaving to British the monopoly of direct carrying between the
colonies and Europe.

Although vexations to neutrals incident to a state of war continued
subsequent to this treaty, they turned upon points of construction and
practice rather than upon principle. Negotiation was continuous; and
in September, 1800, towards the close of Adams's administration, Mr.
John Marshall, then Secretary of State, summed up existing complaints
of commercial injury under three heads,--definitions of contraband,
methods of blockade, and the unjust decisions of Vice-Admiralty
Courts; coupled with the absence of penalty to cruisers making
unwarranted captures, which emboldened them to seize on any ground,
because certain to escape punishment. But no formal pronouncement
further injurious to United States commerce was made by the British
Government during this war, which ended in October, 1801, to be
renewed eighteen months later. On the contrary, the progress of events
in the West Indies, by its favorable effect upon British commerce,
assisted Pitt in taking the more liberal measures to which by
conviction he was always inclined. The destruction of Haiti as a
French colony, and to a great degree as a producer of sugar and
coffee, by eliminating one principal source of the world's supply,
raised values throughout the remaining Caribbean; while the capture of
almost all the French and Dutch possessions threw their commerce and
navigation into the hands of Great Britain. In this swelling
prosperity the British planter, the British carrier, and the British
merchant at home all shared, and so bore without apparent grudging the
issuance of an Order, in January, 1798, which extended to European
neutrals the concession, made in 1795 to the United States, of
carrying West Indian produce direct from the islands to their own
country, or to Great Britain; not, however, to a hostile port, or to
any other neutral territory than their own.

Although this Order in no way altered the existing status of the
United States, it was embraced in a list of British measures affecting
commerce,[114] transmitted to Congress in 1808. From the American
standpoint this was accurate; for the extension to neutrals to carry
to their own country, and to no other, continued the exclusion of the
United States from a direct traffic between the belligerent colonies
and Europe, which she had steadily asserted to be her right, but which
the Rule of 1756 denied. The utmost the United States had obtained was
the restitution of privileges enjoyed by them as colonists of Great
Britain, in trading with the British West Indies; and this under
circumstances of delay and bargain which showed clearly that the
temporary convenience of Great Britain was alone consulted. No
admission had been made on the point of right, as maintained by
America. On the contrary, the Order of 1798 was at pains to state as
its motive no change of principle, but "consideration of the present
state of the commerce of Great Britain, as well as of that of neutral
countries," which makes it "expedient."[115]

Up to the preliminaries of peace in 1801, nothing occurred to change
that state of commerce which made expedient the Order of January,
1798. It was renewed in terms when war again began between France and
Great Britain, in May, 1803. In consideration of present conditions,
the direct trade was permitted to neutral vessels between an enemy's
colony and their own country. The United States remained, as before,
excluded from direct carriage between the West Indies and Europe; but
the general course of the British Administration of the moment gave
hopes of a line of conduct more conformable to American standards of
neutral rights. Particularly, in reply to a remonstrance of the United
States, a blockade of the whole coast of Martinique and Guadaloupe,
proclaimed by a British admiral, was countermanded; instructions being
sent him that the measure could apply only to particular ports,
actually invested by sufficient force, and that neutrals attempting to
enter should not be captured unless they had been previously
warned.[116] Although no concession of principle as to colonial trade
had been made, the United States acquiesced in, though she did not
accept, the conditions of its enforcement. These were well understood
by the mercantile community, and were such as admitted of great
advantage, both to the merchant and to the carrying trade. In 1808,
Mr. Monroe, justifying his negotiations of 1806, wrote that, even
under new serious differences which had then arisen, "The United
States were in a prosperous and happy condition, compared with that of
other nations. As a neutral Power, they were almost the exclusive
carriers of the commerce of the whole world; and in commerce they
flourished beyond example, notwithstanding the losses they
occasionally suffered."[117]

Under such circumstances matters ran along smoothly for nearly two
years. In May, 1804, occurred a change of administration in England,
bringing Pitt again into power. As late as November 8 of this year,
Jefferson in his annual message said, "With the nations of Europe, in
general, our friendship and intercourse are undisturbed; and, from the
governments of the belligerent powers, especially, we continue to
receive those friendly manifestations which are justly due to an
honest neutrality." Monroe in London wrote at the same time, "Our
commerce was never so much favored in time of war."[118] These words
testify to general quietude and prosperity under existing conditions,
but are not to be understood as affirming absence of subjects of
difference. On the contrary, Monroe had been already some time in
London, charged to obtain from Great Britain extensive concessions of
principle and practice, which Jefferson, with happy optimism, expected
a nation engaged in a life and death struggle would yield in virtue of
reams of argument, maintaining views novel to it, advanced by a
country enjoying the plenitude of peace, but without organized power
to enforce its demands.

About this time, but as yet unknown to the President, the question had
been suddenly raised by the British Government as to what constituted
a direct trade; and American vessels carrying West Indian products
from the United States to Europe were seized under a construction of
"direct," which was affirmed by the court before whom the cases came
for adjudication. As Jefferson's expressions had reflected the
contentment of the American community, profiting, as neutrals often
profit, by the misfortunes of belligerents, so these measures of Pitt
proceeded from the discontents of planters, shippers, and merchants.
These had come to see in the prosperity of American shipping, and the
gains of American merchants, the measure of their own losses by a
trade which, though of long standing, they now claimed was one of
direct carriage, because by continuous voyage, between the hostile
colonies and the continent of Europe. The losses of planter and
merchant, however, were but one aspect of the question, and not the
most important in British eyes. The products of hostile origin carried
by Americans to neutral or hostile countries in Europe did by
competition reduce seriously the profit upon British colonial articles
of the same kind, to the injury of the finances of the kingdom; and
the American carriers, the American ships, not only supplanted so much
British tonnage, but were enabled to do so by British seamen, who
found in them a quiet refuge--relatively, though not wholly,
secure--from the impressment which everywhere pursued the British
merchant ship. It was a fundamental conviction of all British
statesmen, and of the general British public, that the welfare of the
navy, the one defence of the empire, depended upon maintaining the
carrying trade, with the right of impressment from it; and Pitt, upon
his return to office, had noted "with considerable concern, the
increasing acrimony which appears to pervade the representations made
to you [the British Minister at Washington] by the American Secretary
of State on the subject of the impressment of seamen from on board
American ships."[119]

The issue of direct trade was decided adversely to the contention of
the United States, in the test case of the ship "Essex," in May, 1805,
by the first living authority in England on maritime international
law, Sir William Scott. Resting upon the Rule of 1756, he held that
direct trade from belligerent colonies to Europe was forbidden to
neutrals, except under the conditions of the relaxing Orders of 1798
and 1803; but the privilege to carry to their own country having been
by these extended, it was conceded, in accordance with precedent,
that products thus imported, if they had complied with the legal
requirements for admission _to use_ in the importing country,
thenceforth had its nationality. They became neutral in character, and
could be exported like native produce to any place open to commerce,
belligerent or neutral. United States shippers, therefore, were at
liberty to send even to France French colonial products which had been
thus Americanized. The effect of this procedure upon the articles in
question was to raise their price at the place of final arrival, by
all the expense incident to a broken transit; by the cost of landing,
storing, paying duties, and reshipping, together with that of the
delay consequent upon entering an American port to undergo these
processes. With the value thus enhanced upon reaching the continent of
Europe, the British planter, carrier, and merchant might hope that
British West India produce could compete; although various changes of
conditions in the West Indies, and Bonaparte's efforts at the
exclusion of British products from the continent, had greatly reduced
their market there from the fair proportions of the former war. In the
cases brought before Sir William Scott, however, it was found that the
duties paid for admission to the United States were almost wholly
released, by drawback, on re-exportation; so that the articles were
brought to the continental consumer relieved of this principal element
of cost. He therefore ruled that they had not complied with the
conditions of an actual importation; that the articles had not lost
their belligerent character; and that the carriage to Europe was by
direct voyage, not interrupted by an importation. The vessels were
therefore condemned.

The immediate point thus decided was one of construction, and in
particular detail hitherto unsettled. The law adviser of the Crown had
stated in 1801, as an accepted precedent, "that landing the goods and
paying the duties in the neutral country breaks the continuity of the
voyage;"[120] but the circumstance of drawback, which belonged to the
municipal prerogative of the independent neutral state, had not then
been considered. The foundation on which all rested was the principle
of 1756. The underlying motive for the new action taken--the
protection of a British traffic--linked the War of 1812 with the
conditions of colonial dependence of the United States, which was a
matter of recent memory to men of both countries still in the vigor of
life. The American found again exerted over his national commerce a
control indistinguishable in practice from that of colonial days; from
what port his ships should sail, whither they might go, what cargoes
they might carry, under what rules be governed in their own ports,
were dictated to him as absolutely, if not in as extensive detail, as
before the War of Independence. The British Government placed itself
in the old attitude of a sovereign authority, regulating the commerce
of a dependency with an avowed view to the interest of the mother
country. This motive was identical with that of colonial
administration; the particular form taken being dictated, of course,
then as before, by the exigencies of the moment,--by a "consideration
of the present state of the commerce of this country." Messrs. Monroe
and Pinkney, who were appointed jointly to negotiate a settlement of
the trouble, wrote that "the British commissioners did not hesitate to
state that their wish was to place their own merchants on an equal
footing in the great markets of the continent with those of the United
States, by burthening the intercourse of the latter with severe
restrictions."[121] The wish was allowable; but the method, the
regulation of American commercial movement by British force, resting
for justification upon a strained interpretation of a contested
belligerent right, was naturally and accurately felt to be a
re-imposition of colonial fetters upon a people who had achieved their

The motive remained; and the method, the regulation of American trade
by British orders, was identical in substance, although other in form,
with that of the celebrated Orders in Council of 1807 and 1809. Mr.
Monroe, who was minister to England when this interesting period
began, had gone to Spain on a special mission in October, 1804,
shortly after his announcement, before quoted, that "American commerce
was never so much favored in time of war." "On no principle or
pretext, so far, has more than one of our vessels been condemned."
Upon his return in July, 1805, he found in full progress the seizures,
the legality of which had been affirmed by Sir William Scott. A
prolonged correspondence with the then British Government followed,
but no change of policy could be obtained. In January, 1806, Pitt
died; and the ministry which succeeded was composed largely of men
recently opposed to him in general principles of action. In
particular, Mr. Fox, between whom and Pitt there had been an
antagonism nearly lifelong, became Secretary for Foreign Affairs. His
good dispositions towards America were well known, and dated from the
War of Independence. To him Monroe wrote that under the recent
measures "about one hundred and twenty vessels had been seized,
several condemned, all taken from their course, detained, and
otherwise subjected to heavy losses and damages."[122] The injury was
not confined to the immediate sufferers, but reacted necessarily on
the general commercial system of the United States.

    [Illustration: JAMES MONROE
    From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in the possession of Hon.
    T. Jefferson Coolidge.]

In his first conversations with Monroe, Fox appeared to coincide with
the American view, both as to the impropriety of the seizures and the
general right of the United States to the trade in dispute, under
their own interpretation of it; namely, that questions of duties and
drawbacks, and the handling of the cargoes in American ports, were
matters of national regulation, upon which a foreign state had no
claim to pronounce. The American envoy was sanguine of a favorable
issue; but the British Secretary had to undergo the experience, which
long exclusion from office made novel to him, that in the
complications of political life a broad personal conviction has often
to yield to the narrow logic of particular conditions. It is clear
that the measures would not have been instituted, had he been in
control; but, as it was, the American representative demanded not only
their discontinuance, but a money indemnity. The necessity of
reparation for wrong, if admitted, stood in the way of admitting as a
wrong a proceeding authorized by the last Government, and pronounced
legal by the tribunals. To this obstacle was added the weight of a
strong outdoor public feeling, and of opposition in the Cabinet, by no
means in accord upon Fox's general views. Consequently, to Monroe's
demands for a concession of principle, and for pecuniary compensation,
Fox at last replied with a proposition, consonant with the usual
practical tone of English statesmanship, never more notable than at
this period, that a compromise should be effected; modifying causes of
complaint, without touching on principles. "Can we not agree to
suspend our rights, and leave you in a satisfactory manner the
enjoyment of the trade? In that case, nothing would be said about the
principle, and there would be no claim to indemnity."[123]

The United States Government, throughout the controversy which began
here and lasted till the war, clung with singular tenacity to the
establishment of principles. To this doubtless contributed much the
personality of Madison, then Secretary of State; a man of the pen,
clear-headed, logical, incisive, and delighting like all men in the
exercise of conscious powers. The discussion of principles, the
exposure of an adversary's weakness or inconsistencies, the weighty
marshalling of uncounted words, were to him the breath of life; and
with happy disregard of the need to back phrases with deeds, there now
opened before him a career of argumentation, of logical deduction and
exposition, constituting a condition of political and personal
enjoyment which only the deskman can fully appreciate. It was not,
however, an era in which the pen was mightier than the sword; and in
the smooth gliding of the current Niagara was forgotten. Like
Jefferson, he was wholly oblivious of the relevancy of Pompey's retort
to a contention between two nations, each convinced of its own right:
"Will you never have done with citing laws and privileges to men who
wear swords?"

To neither President nor Secretary does it seem to have occurred that
the provision of force might lend weight to argument; a consideration
to which Monroe, intellectually much their inferior, was duly
sensible. "Nothing will be obtained without some kind of pressure,
such a one as excites an apprehension that it will be increased in
case of necessity; and to produce that effect it will be proper to put
our country in a better state of defence, by invigorating the militia
system and increasing the naval force." "Victorious at sea, Great
Britain finds herself compelled to concentrate her force so much in
this quarter, that she would not only be unable to annoy us
essentially in case of war, but even to protect her commerce and
possessions elsewhere, which would be exposed to our attacks."[124]
Most true when written, in 1805; the time had passed in 1813.
"Harassed as they are already with war, and the menaces of a powerful
adversary, a state of hostility with us would probably go far to throw
this country into confusion. It is an event which the ministry would
find it difficult to resist, and therefore cannot, I presume, be
willing to encounter."[1] But he added, "There is here an opinion,
which many do not hesitate to avow, that the United States are, by the
nature of their Government, incapable of any great, vigorous, or
persevering exertion."[125] This impression, for which it must
sorrowfully be confessed there was much seeming ground in contemporary
events, and the idiosyncrasies of Jefferson and Madison, in their full
dependence upon commercial coercion to reduce Great Britain to concede
their most extreme demands, contributed largely to maintain the
successive British ministries in that unconciliatory and disdainful
attitude towards the United States, which made inevitable a war that a
higher bearing might have averted.

Monroe had been instructed that, if driven to it, he might waive the
practical right to sail direct from a belligerent colony to the mother
country, being careful to use no expression that would imply yielding
of the abstract principle. But the general insistence of his
Government upon obtaining from Great Britain acknowledgment of right
was so strong that he could not accept Fox's suggestion. The British
Minister, forced along the lines of his predecessors by the logic of
the situation, then took higher ground. "He proceeded to insist that,"
to break the continuity of the voyage, "our vessels which should be
engaged in that commerce must enter our ports, their cargoes be
landed, and the duties paid."[126] This was the full extent of Pitt's
requirements, as of the rulings of the British Admiralty Court; and
made the regulation of transactions in an American port depend upon
the decisions of British authorities. Monroe unhesitatingly rejected
the condition, and their interview ended, leaving the subject where it
had been. The British Cabinet then took matters into its own hands,
and without further communication with Monroe adopted a practical
solution, which removed the particular contention from the field of
controversy by abandoning the existing measures, but without any
expression as to the question of right or principle, which by this
tacit omission was reserved. Unfortunately for the wishes of both
parties, this recourse to opportunism, for such it was, however
ameliorative of immediate friction, resulted in a further series of
quarrels; for the new step of the British Government was considered by
the American to controvert international principles as much cherished
by it as the right to the colonial trade.

Monroe's interview was on April 25. On May 17 he received a letter
from Fox, dated May 16, notifying him that, in consequence of certain
new and extraordinary means resorted to by the enemy for distressing
British commerce, a retaliatory commercial blockade was ordered of the
coast of the continent, from the river Elbe to Brest. This blockade,
however, was to be absolute, against all commerce, only between the
Seine and Ostend. Outside of those limits, on the coast of France west
of the Seine, and those of France, Holland, and Germany east of
Ostend, the rights of capture attaching to blockades would be forborne
in favor of neutral vessels, bound in, which had not been laden at a
port hostile to Great Britain; or which, going out, were not destined
to such hostile port.[127] No discrimination was made against the
character of the cargo, except as forbidden by generally recognized
laws of war. This omission tacitly allowed the colonial trade by way
of American ports, just as the measure as a whole tacitly waived all
questions of principle upon which that difference had turned. After
this, a case coming before a British court would require from it no
concession affecting its previous rulings. By these the vessel still
would stand condemned; but she was relieved from the application of
them by the new Order, in which the Government had relinquished its
asserted right. The direct voyage from the colony to the mother
country was from a hostile port, and therefore remained prohibited;
but the proceedings in the United States ports, as affecting the
question of direct voyage, though held by the Court to be properly
liable to interpretation by itself on international grounds, if
brought before it, was removed from its purview by the act of its own
Government, granting immunity.

The first impressions made upon Monroe by this step were favorable, as
it evidently relieved the immediate embarrassments under which
American commerce was laboring. There would at least be no more
seizures upon the plea of direct voyages. While refraining from
expressing to Fox any approbation of the Order of May 16, he wrote
home in this general sense of congratulation; and upon his letters,
communicated to Congress in 1808, was founded a claim by the British
Minister at Washington in 1811, that the blockade thus instituted was
not at the time regarded by him "as founded on other than just and
legitimate principles." "I have not heard that it was considered in a
contrary light when notified as such to you by Mr. Secretary Fox, nor
until it suited the views of France to endeavor to have it considered
otherwise."[128] Monroe, who was then Secretary of State, replied that
with Fox "an official formal complaint was not likely to be resorted
to, because friendly communications were invited and preferred. The
want of such a document is no proof that the measure was approved by
me, or no complaint made."[129] The general tenor of his home
letters, however, was that of satisfaction; and it is natural to men
dealing with questions of immediate difficulty to hail relief, without
too close scrutiny into its ultimate consequences. It may be added
that ministers abroad, in close contact with the difficulties and
perplexities of the government to which they are accredited, recognize
these more fully than do their superiors at home, and are more
susceptible to the advantages of practical remedies over the
maintenance of abstract principle.

The legitimacy of the blockade of May 16, 1806, was afterwards sharply
contested by the United States. There was no difference between the
two governments as to the general principle that a blockade, to be
lawful, must be supported by the presence of an adequate force, making
it dangerous for a vessel trying to enter or leave the port. "Great
Britain," wrote Madison, "has already in a formal communication
admitted the principle for which we contend." The difficulty turned on
a point of definition, as to what situation, and what size, of a
blockading division constituted adequacy. The United States
authorities based themselves resolutely on the position that the
blockaders must be close to the ports named for closure, and denied
that a coast-line in its entirety could thus be shut off from
commerce, without specifying the particular harbors before which ships
would be stationed. Intent, as neutrals naturally are, upon narrowing
belligerent rights, usually adverse to their own, they placed the
strictest construction on the words "port" and "force." This is
perhaps best shown by quoting the definition proposed by American
negotiators to the British Government over a year later,--July 24,
1807. "In order to determine what characterizes a blockade, that
denomination is given only to a _port_, where there is, by the
disposition of the Power which blockades it _with ships stationary_,
an evident danger in entering."[130] Madison, in 1801, discussing
vexations to Americans bound into the Mediterranean, by a Spanish
alleged blockade of Gibraltar, had anticipated and rejected the
British action of 1806. "Like blockades might be proclaimed by any
particular nation, enabled by its naval superiority to distribute its
ships at the mouth of that or any similar sea, _or across channels or
arms of the sea_, so as to make it dangerous for the commerce of other
nations to pass to its destination. These monstrous consequences
condemn the principle from which they flow."[131]

The blockade of May 16 offered a particularly apt illustration of the
point at issue. From the entrance of the English Channel to the
Straits of Dover, the whole of both shore-lines was belligerent. On
one side all was British; on the other all French. Evidently a line of
ships disposed from Ushant to the Lizard, the nearest point on the
English coast, would constitute a very real danger to a vessel seeking
to approach any French port on the Channel. Fifteen vessels would
occupy such a line, with intervals of only six miles, and in
combination with a much smaller body at the Straits of Dover would
assuredly bring all the French coast between them within the limits of
any definition of danger. That these particular dispositions were
adopted does not appear; but that very much larger numbers were
continually moving in the Channel, back and forth in every direction,
is certain. As to the remainder of the coast declared under
restriction, from the Straits to the Elbe,--about four hundred
miles,--with the great entrances to Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, the
Ems, the Weser, and the Elbe, there can be no doubt that it was within
the power of Great Britain to establish the blockade within the
requirements of international law. Whether she did so was a question
of fact, on which both sides were equally positive. The British to the
last asserted that an adequate force had been assigned, "and actually
maintained,"[132] while the blockade lasted.

The incident derived its historical significance chiefly from
subsequent events. It does not appear at the first to have engaged the
special attention of the United States Government, the general
position of which, as to blockades, was already sufficiently defined.
The particular instance was only one among several, and interest was
then diverted to two other leading points,--impressment and the
colonial trade. Peculiar importance began to attach to it only in the
following November, when Napoleon issued his Berlin decree. Upon this
ensued the exaggerated oppressions of neutral commerce by both
antagonists; and the question arose as to the responsibility for
beginning the series of measures, of which the Berlin and Milan
Decrees on one side, and the British Orders in Council of 1807 and
1809 on the other, were the most conspicuous features. Napoleon
contended that the whole sprang from the extravagant pretensions of
Great Britain, particularly in the Order of May 16, which he, in
common with the United States, characterized as illegal. The British
Government affirmed that it was strictly within belligerent rights,
and was executed by an adequate force; that consequently it gave no
ground for the course of the French Emperor. American statesmen, while
disclaiming with formal gravity any purpose to decide with which of
the two wrong-doers the ill first began,[133] had no scruples about
reiterating constantly that the Order of May 16 contravened
international right; and in so far, although wholly within the limits
of diplomatic propriety, they supported Napoleon's assertion. Thus it
came to pass that the United States was more and more felt, not only
in Europe, but by dissentients at home, to side with France; and as
the universal contest grew more embittered, this feeling became

While these discussions were in progress between Monroe and Fox, the
United States Government had taken a definite step to bring the
dispute to an issue by commercial restriction. The remonstrances from
the mercantile community, against the seizures under the new ruling as
to direct trade, were too numerous, emphatic, and withal reasonable,
to be disregarded. Congress therefore, before its adjournment on April
23, 1806, passed a law shutting the American market, after the
following November 15, against certain articles of British
manufacture, unless equitable arrangements between the two countries
should previously be reached. This recourse was in line with the
popular action of the period preceding the War of Independence, and
foreshadowed the general policy upon which the Administration was soon
to enter on a larger scale. The measure was initiated before news was
received of Pitt's death, and the accession of a more friendly
ministry; but, having been already recommended in committee, it was
not thought expedient to recede in consequence of the change. At the
same time, the Administration determined to constitute an
extraordinary mission, for the purpose of "treating with the British
Government concerning the maritime wrongs which have been committed,
and the regulation of commercial navigation between the parties." For
this object Mr. William Pinkney, of Maryland, was nominated as
colleague to Monroe, and arrived in England on June 24.

The points to be adjusted by the new commissioners were numerous, but
among them two were made pre-eminent,--the question of colonial
trade, already explained, and that of impressment of seamen from
American vessels. These were named by the Secretary of State as the
motive of the recent Act prohibiting certain importations. The envoys
were explicitly instructed that no stipulation requiring the repeal of
that Act was to be made, unless an effectual remedy for these two
evils was provided. The question of impressment, wrote Madison,
"derives urgency from the licentiousness with which it is still
pursued, and from the growing impatience of this country under
it."[134] When Pinkney arrived, the matter of the colonial trade had
already been settled indirectly by the Order of May 16, and it was
soon to disappear from prominence, merged in the extreme measures of
which that blockade was the precursor; but impressment remained an
unhealed sore to the end.

To understand the real gravity of this dispute, it is essential to
consider candidly the situation of both parties, and also the
influence exerted upon either by long-standing tradition. The British
Government did not advance a crude claim to impress American seamen.
What it did assert, and was enforcing, was a right to exercise over
individuals on board foreign merchantmen, upon the high seas, the
authority which it possessed on board British ships there, and over
all ships in British ports. The United States took the ground that no
such jurisdiction existed, unless over persons engaged in the military
service of an enemy; and that only when a vessel entered the ports or
territorial waters of Great Britain were those on board subject to
arrest by her officers. There, as in every state, they came under the
law of the land.

The British argument in favor of this alleged right may be stated in
the words of Canning, who became Foreign Secretary a year later.
Writing to Monroe, September 23, 1807, he starts from the premise,
then regarded by many even in America as sound, that allegiance by
birth is inalienable,--not to be renounced at the will of the
individual; consequently, "when mariners, subjects of his Majesty, are
employed in the private service of foreigners, they enter into
engagements inconsistent with the duty of subjects. In such cases, the
species of redress which the practice of all times has admitted and
sanctioned is that of taking those subjects at sea out of the service
of such foreign individuals, and recalling them to the discharge of
that paramount duty, which they owe to their sovereign and to their
country. That the exercise of this right involves some of the dearest
interests of Great Britain, your Government is ready to
acknowledge.... It is needless to repeat that these rights existed in
their fullest force for ages previous to the establishment of the
United States of America as an independent government; and it would be
difficult to contend that the recognition of that independence can
have operated any change in this respect."[135]

Had this been merely a piece of clever argumentation, it would have
crumbled rapidly under an appreciation of the American case; but it
represented actually a conviction inherited by all the British people,
and not that of Canning only. Whether the foundation of the alleged
right was solidly laid in reason or not, it rested on alleged
prescription, indorsed by a popular acceptance and suffrage which no
ministry could afford to disregard, at a time when the manning of the
Royal Navy was becoming a matter of notorious and increasing
difficulty. If Americans saw with indignation that many of their
fellow-citizens were by the practice forced from their own ships to
serve in British vessels of war, it was equally well known, in
America as in Great Britain, that in the merchant vessels of the
United States were many British seamen, sorely needed by their
country. Public opinion in the United States was by no means united in
support of the position then taken by Jefferson and Madison, as well
as by their predecessors in office, proper and matter-of-course as
that seems to-day. Many held, and asserted even with vehemence, that
the British right existed, and that an indisputable wrong was
committed by giving the absentees shelter under the American flag. The
claim advanced by the United States Government, and the only one
possible to it under the circumstances, was that when outside of
territorial limits a ship's flag and papers must be held to determine
the nation, to which alone belonged jurisdiction over every person on
board, unless demonstrably in the military service of a belligerent.

As a matter involving extensive practical consequences, this
contention, like that concerning the colonial trade, had its origin
from the entrance into the family of European nations of a new-comer,
foreign to the European community of states and their common
traditions; indisposed, consequently, to accept by mere force of
custom rules and practices unquestioned by them, but traversing its
own interests. As Canning argued, the change of political relation, by
which the colonies became independent, could not affect rights of
Great Britain which did not derive from the colonial connection; but
it did introduce an opposing right,--that of the American citizen to
be free from British control when not in British territory. This the
United States possessed in common with all foreign nations; but in her
case it could not, as in theirs, be easily reconciled with the claim
of Great Britain. When every one whose native tongue was English was
also by birth the subject of Great Britain, the visitation of a
foreign neutral, in order to take from her any British seamen,
involved no great difficulty of discrimination, nor--granting the
theory of inalienable allegiance--any injustice to the person taken.
It was quite different when a large maritime English-speaking
population, quite comparable in numbers to that remaining British, had
become independent. The exercise of the British right, if right it
was, became liable to grievous wrong, not only to the individuals
affected, but to the nation responsible for their protection; and the
injury was greater, both in procedure and result, because the
officials intrusted with the enforcement of the British claim were
personally interested in the decisions they rendered. No one who
understands the affection of a naval officer for an able seaman,
especially if his ship be short-handed, will need to have explained
how difficult it became for him to distinguish between an Englishman
and an American, when much wanted. In short, there was on each side a
practical grievance; but the character of the remedy to be applied
involved a question of principle, the effect of which would be unequal
between the disputants, increasing the burden of the one while it
diminished that of the other, according as the one or the other
solution was adopted.

Except for the fact that the British Government had at its disposal
overwhelming physical force, its case would have shared that of all
other prescriptive rights when they come into collision with present
actualities, demanding their modification. It might be never so true
that long-standing precedent made legal the impressment of British
seamen from neutral vessels on the open sea; but it remained that in
practice many American seamen were seized, and forced into involuntary
servitude, the duration of which, under the customs of the British
Navy, was terminable certainly only by desertion or death. The very
difficulty of distinguishing between the natives of the two countries,
"owing to similarity of language, habits, and manners,"[136] alleged
in 1797 by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Grenville, to Rufus
King, the American Minister, did but emphasize the incompatibility of
the British claim with the security of the American citizen. The
Consul-General of Great Britain at New York during most of this stormy
period, Thomas Barclay, a loyalist during the War of Independence,
affirms from time to time, with evident sincerity of conviction, the
wishes of the British Government and naval officers not to impress
American seamen; but his published correspondence contains none the
less several specific instances, in which he assures British admirals
and captains that impressed men serving on board their ships are
beyond doubt native Americans, and his editor remarks that "only a few
of his many appeals on behalf of Americans unlawfully seized are here
printed."[137] This, too, in the immediate neighborhood of the United
States, where evidence was most readily at hand. The condition was
intolerable, and in principle it mattered nothing whether one man or
many thus suffered. That the thing was possible, even for a single
most humble and unknown native of the United States, condemned the
system, and called imperiously for remedy. The only effectual remedy,
however, was the abandonment of the practice altogether, whether or
not the theoretic ground for such abandonment was that advanced by the
United States. Long before 1806, experience had demonstrated, what had
been abundantly clear to foresight, that a naval lieutenant or captain
could not safely be intrusted with a function so delicate as deciding
the nationality of a likely English-speaking topman, whom, if British,
he had the power to impress.

The United States did not refuse to recognize, distinctly if not
fully, the embarrassment under which Great Britain labored by losing
the services of her seamen at a moment of such national exigency; and
it was prepared to offer many concessions in municipal regulations, in
order to exclude British subjects from American vessels. Various
propositions were advanced looking to the return of deserters and to
the prevention of enlistments; coupled always with a renunciation of
the British claim to take persons from under the American flag. There
had been much negotiation by individual ministers of the United States
in the ordinary course of their duties; beginning as far back as 1787,
when John Adams had to remonstrate vigorously with the Cabinet
"against this practice, which has been too common, of impressing
American citizens, and especially with the aggravating circumstances
of going on board American vessels, which ought to be protected by the
flag of their sovereign."[138] Again, in 1790, on hostilities
threatening with Spain, a number of American seamen were impressed in
British ports. The arrests, being within British waters, were not an
infringement of American jurisdiction, and the only question then
raised was that of proving nationality. Gouverneur Morris, who
afterwards so violently advocated the British claim to impress their
own subjects in American vessels on the seas,[139] was at this time in
London on a special semi-official errand, committed to him by
President Washington. There being then no American resident minister,
he took upon himself to mention to the Foreign Secretary "the conduct
of their pressgangs, who had taken many American seamen, and had
entered American vessels with as little ceremony as those belonging to
Britain;" adding, with a caustic humor characteristic of him, "I
believe, my Lord, this is the only instance in which we are not
treated as aliens." He suggested certificates of citizenship, to be
issued by the Admiralty Courts of the United States. This was
approved by the Secretary and by Pitt; the latter, however, remarking
that the plan was "very liable to abuse, notwithstanding every
precaution."[140] Various expedients for attaching to the individual
documentary evidence of birth were from time to time tried; but the
heedless and inconsequent character and habits of the sailor of that
day, and the facility with which the papers, once issued, could be
transferred or bought, made any such resource futile. The United
States was thus driven to the position enunciated in 1792 by
Jefferson, then Secretary of State: "The simplest rule will be that
the vessel being American shall be evidence that the seamen on board
of her are such."[141] If this demand comprehended, as it apparently
did, cases of arrest in British harbors, it was clearly extravagant,
resembling the idea proceeding from the same source that the Gulf
Stream should mark the neutral line of United States waters; but for
the open sea it formulated the doctrine on which the country finally
and firmly took its stand.

    [Illustration: THOMAS JEFFERSON
    From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in Bowdoin College,
    Brunswick, Me.]

The history of the practice of impressment, and of the consequent
negotiations, from the time of Jefferson's first proposition down to
the mission of Monroe and Pinkney, had shown conclusively that no
other basis of settlement than that of the flag vouching for the crew
could adequately meet and remove the evil of which the United States
complained; an evil which was not only an injury to the individuals
affected, but a dishonor to the nation which should continue to
submit. The subject early engaged the care of Rufus King, who became
Minister to Great Britain in 1796. In 1797, Lord Grenville and he had
a correspondence,[142] which served merely to develop the difficulties
on both sides, and things drifted from bad to worse. Not only was
there the oppression of the individual, but the safety of ships was
endangered by the ruthless manner in which they were robbed of their
crews; an evil from which British merchant vessels often
suffered.[143] On October 7, 1799, King again presented Grenville a
paper,[144] summarizing forcibly both the abuses undergone by
Americans, and the inconsistency of the British principle of
inalienable allegiance with other British practices, which not only
conferred citizenship upon aliens serving for a certain time in their
merchant ships, but even attributed it compulsorily to seamen settled
or married in the land.[145] No satisfactory action followed upon this
remonstrance. In March, 1801, Grenville having resigned with Pitt,
King brought the question before their successors, referring to the
letter of October, 1799, as "a full explanation, requiring no further
development on the present occasion."[146] At the same time, by
authority from his Government, he made a definite proposal, "that
neither party shall upon the high seas impress seamen out of the
vessels of the other." The instructions for this action were given
under the presidency of John Adams, John Marshall being then Secretary
of State. On the high seas the vessels of the country were not under
British jurisdiction for any purpose. The only concession of
international law was that the ship itself could be arrested, if found
by a belligerent cruiser under circumstances apparently in violation
of belligerent rights, be brought within belligerent jurisdiction, and
the facts there determined by due process of law. But in the practice
of impressment the whole procedure, from arrest to trial and sentence,
was transferred to the open sea; therefore to allow it extended
thither a British jurisdiction, which possessed none of the guarantees
for the sifting of evidence, the application of law, or the
impartiality of the judge, which may be presumed in regular tribunals.

Yet, while holding clearly the absolute justice of the American
contention, demonstrated both by the faulty character of the method
and the outrageous injustice in results, let us not be blind to the
actuality of the loss Great Britain was undergoing, nor to her
estimate of the compensation offered for the relinquishment of the
practice. The New England States, which furnished a large proportion
of the maritime population, affirmed continually by their constituted
authorities that very few of their seamen were known to be impressed.
Governor Strong of Massachusetts, in a message to the Legislature,
said, "The number of our native seamen impressed by British ships has
been grossly exaggerated, and the number of British seamen employed by
us has at all times been far greater than those of all nations who
have been impressed from our vessels. If we are contending for the
support of a claim to exempt British seamen from their allegiance to
their own country, is it not time to inquire whether our claim is
just?"[147] It seems singular now that the fewness of the citizens
hopelessly consigned to indefinite involuntary servitude should have
materially affected opinion as to the degree of the outrage; but,
after making allowance for the spirit of faction then prevalent, it
can be readily understood that such conditions, being believed by the
British, must color their judgment as to the real extent of the
injustice by which they profited. At New York, in 1805, Consul-General
Barclay,[148] who had then been resident for six years, in replying to
a letter from the Mayor, said, "It is a fact, too notorious to have
escaped your knowledge, that many of his Majesty's subjects are
furnished with American protection, to which they have no title." This
being brought to Madison's attention produced a complaint to the
British Minister. In justifying his statements, Barclay wrote there
were "innumerable instances where British subjects within a month
after their arrival in these states obtain certificates of
citizenship." "The documents I have already furnished you prove the
indiscriminate use of those certificates."[149] Representative Gaston
of North Carolina, whose utterances on another aspect of the question
have been before quoted,[150] said in this relation, "In the battle, I
think of the President and the Little Belt, a neighbor of mine, now an
industrious farmer, noticed in the number of the slain one of his own
name. He exclaimed, 'There goes one of my protections.' On being asked
for an explanation, he remarked that in his wild days, when he
followed the sea, it was an ordinary mode of procuring a little
spending money to get a protection from a notary for a dollar, and
sell it to the first foreigner whom it at all fitted for fifteen or
twenty." But, while believing that the number of impressed Americans
"had been exaggerated infinitely beyond the truth," Gaston added, with
the clear perceptions of patriotism, "Be they more or less, the right
to the protection of their country is sacred and must be

The logic was unimpeachable which, to every argument based upon
numbers, replied that the question was not of few or many, but of a
system, under which American seamen--one or more--were continually
liable to be seized by an irresponsible authority, without protection
or hearing of law, and sent to the uttermost part of the earth, beyond
power of legal redress, or of even making known their situation. Yet
it can be understood that the British Government, painfully conscious
of the deterioration of its fighting force by the absence of its
subjects, and convinced of its right, concerning which no hesitation
was ever by it expressed, should have resolved to maintain it,
distrustful of offers to exclude British seamen from the American
merchant service, the efficacy of which must have been more than
doubtful to all familiar with shipping procedures in maritime ports.
The protections issued to seamen as American citizens fell under the
suspicion which in later days not infrequently attached to
naturalization papers; and, if questioned by some of our own people,
it is not to be wondered that they seemed more than doubtful to a
contrary interest.

In presenting the proposition, "that neither party should impress from
the ships of the other," King had characterized it as a temporary
measure, "until more comprehensive and precise regulations can be
devised to secure the respective rights of the two countries."
Nevertheless, the United States would doubtless have been content to
rest in this, duly carried out, and even to waive concession of the
principle, should it be thus voided in practice. As King from the
first foresaw,[152] acceptance by the British Cabinet would depend
upon the new head of the Admiralty, Lord St. Vincent, a veteran
admiral, whose reputation, and experience of over fifty years, would
outweigh the opinions of his colleagues. In reply to a private letter
from one of St. Vincent's political friends, sent at King's request,
the admiral wrote: "Mr. King is probably not aware of the abuses which
are committed by American Consuls in France, Spain, and Portugal, from
the generality of whom every Englishman, knowing him to be such, may
be made an American for a dollar. I have known more than one American
master carry off soldiers, in their regimentals, arms, and
accoutrements, from the garrison at Gibraltar; and there cannot be a
doubt but the American trade is navigated by a majority of British
subjects; and a very considerable one too." However inspired by
prejudice, these words in their way echo Gaston's statements just
quoted; while Madison in 1806 admitted that the number of British
seamen in American merchant ships was "considerable, though probably
less than supposed."

Entertaining these impressions, the concurrence of St. Vincent seemed
doubtful; and in fact, through the period of nominal peace which soon
ensued, and continued to May, 1803, the matter dragged. When the
renewal of the war was seen to be inevitable, King again urged a
settlement, and the Foreign Secretary promised to sign any agreement
which the admiral would approve. After conference, King thought he had
gained this desired consent, for a term of five years, to the American
proposition. He drew up articles embodying it, together with the
necessary equivalents to be stipulated by the United States; but,
before these could be submitted, he received a letter from St.
Vincent, saying that he was of the opinion that the narrow seas should
be expressly excepted from the operation of the clause, "as they had
been immemorially considered to be within the dominions of Great
Britain." Since this would give the consent of the United States to
the extension of British jurisdiction far beyond the customary three
miles from the shore, conceded by international law, King properly
would not accept the solution, tempting as was the opportunity to
secure immunity for Americans in other quarters from the renewed
outrages that could be foreseen. He soon after returned to the United
States, where his decision was of course approved; for though the Gulf
Stream appeared to Jefferson the natural limit for the neutral
jurisdiction of America, the claim of Great Britain to the narrow seas
was evidently a grave encroachment upon the rights of others.

In later years Lord Castlereagh, in an interview with the American
chargé d'affaires, Jonathan Russell, assured him that Mr. King had
misapprehended St. Vincent's meaning; reading, from a mass of records
then before him, a letter of the admiral to Sir William Scott, Judge
of the High Court of Admiralty, "asking for counsel and advice, and
confessing his own perplexity and total incompetency to discover any
practical project for the safe discontinuance of the practice." "You
see," proceeded Lord Castlereagh, "that the confidence of Mr. King on
this point was entirely unfounded."[153]

Wherever the misunderstanding lay, matters had not advanced in the
least towards a solution when Monroe reached England, in 1803, as
King's successor. Up to that time, no tabular statement seems to have
been prepared, showing the total number of seamen impressed from
American vessels during the first war, 1793-1801; nor does the present
writer think it material to ascertain, from the fragmentary data at
hand, the exact extent of an injury to which the question of more or
less was secondary. The official agent of the American Government, for
the protection of seamen, upon quitting his post in London in 1802,
wrote that he had transferred to his successor "A list of 597 seamen,
where answers have been returned to me, stating that, having no
documents to prove their citizenship, the Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty could not consent to their discharge." Only seven cases then
remained without replies, which shows at the least a decent attention
to the formalities of intercourse; and King, in his letter of October
7, 1799, had acknowledged that the Secretary to the Admiralty had
"given great attention to the numerous applications, and that a
disposition has existed to comply with our demands, when the same
could be done consistently with the maxims and practice adopted and
adhered to by Great Britain." The Admiralty, however, maintained that
"the admission of the principle, that a man declaring himself to
belong to a foreign state should, upon that assertion merely, and
without direct or very strong circumstantial proof, be suffered to
leave the service, would be productive of the most dangerous
consequences to his Majesty's Navy." The agent himself had written to
the Secretary of the Admiralty, "I freely confess that I believe many
of them are British subjects; but I presume that all of them were
impressed from American vessels, and by far the greater proportion are
American citizens, who, from various causes, have been deprived of
their certificates, and who, from their peculiar situation, have been
unable to obtain proofs from America."[154]

When Mr. Monroe arrived in England in 1803, after the conclusion of
the Louisiana purchase from France, war had just re-begun.
Instructions were sent him, in an elaborate series of articles framed
by Madison, for negotiating a convention to regulate those matters of
difference which experience had shown were sure to arise between the
two countries in the progress of the hostilities. Among them,
impressment was given the first place; but up to 1806, when Pinkney
was sent as his associate, nothing had been effected, nor does urgency
seem to have been felt. So long as in practice things ran smoothly,
divergences of opinion were easily tolerable. Soon after the receipt
of the instructions, in March, 1804,[155] the comparatively friendly
administration of Addington gave way to that of Pitt; and upon this
had followed Monroe's nine-months absence in Spain. Before departure,
however, he had written, "The negotiation has not failed in its great
objects, ... nor was there ever less cause of complaint furnished by
impressment."[156] The outburst of seizure upon the plea of a
constructively direct trade, already mentioned, had followed, and,
with the retaliatory non-importation law of the United States, made
the situation acute and menacing. Further cause for exasperation was
indicated in a report from the Secretary of State, March 5, 1806,
giving, in reply to a resolution of the House, a tabulated statement,
by name, of 913 persons, who "appear to have been impressed from
American vessels;" to which was added that "the aggregate number of
impressments into the British service since the commencement of the
present war in Europe (May, 1803) is found to be 2,273."[157]

Confronted by this situation of wrongs endured, by commerce and by
seamen, the mission of Monroe and Pinkney was to negotiate a
comprehensive treaty of "amity, commerce, and navigation," the first
attempted between the two countries since Jay's in 1794. When Pinkney
landed, Fox was already in the grip of the sickness from which he died
in the following September. This circumstance introduced an element of
delay, aggravated by the inevitable hesitations of the new ministry,
solicitous on the one hand to accommodate, but yet more anxious not to
incense British opinion. The Prime Minister, in room of Mr. Fox,
received the envoys on August 5, and, when the American demand was
explained to him, defined at once the delicacy of the question of
impressment. "On the subject of the impressment of our seamen, he
suggested doubts of the practicability of devising the means of
discrimination between the seamen of the two countries, within (as we
understood him) their respective jurisdictions; and he spoke of the
importance to the safety of Great Britain, in the present state of the
power of her enemy, of preserving in their utmost strength the right
and capacity of Government to avail itself in war of the services of
its seamen. These observations were connected with frequent
professions of an earnest wish that some liberal and equitable plan
should be adopted, for _reconciling the exercise_ of this essential
right with the just claims of the United States, and for removing from
it all cause of complaint and irritation."[158]

In consequence of Mr. Fox's continued illness two negotiators, one of
whom, Lord Holland, was a near relative of his, were appointed to
confer with the American envoys, and to frame an agreement, if
attainable. The first formal meeting was on August 27, the second on
September 1.[159] As the satisfactory arrangement of the impressment
difficulty was a _sine quâ non_ to the ratification of any treaty, and
to the repeal of the Non-Importation Act, this American requirement
was necessarily at once submitted. The reply was significant,
particularly because made by men apparently chosen for their general
attitude towards the United States, by a ministry certainly desirous
to conciliate, and to retain the full British advantage from the
United States market, if compatible with the preservation of an
interest deemed greater still. "It was soon apparent that they felt
the strongest repugnance to a formal renunciation, or the abandonment,
of their claim to take from our vessels on the high seas such seamen
as should appear to be their own subjects, and they pressed upon us
with much zeal a provision" for documentary protection to individuals;
"but that, subject to such protections, the ships of war of Great
Britain should continue to visit and impress on the main ocean as

In the preliminary discussions the British negotiators presented the
aspect of the case as it appeared to them and to their public. They
"observed that they supposed the object of our plan to be to prevent
the impressment at sea of American seamen, and not to withdraw
British seamen from the naval service of their country in times of
great national peril, for the purpose of employing them ourselves;
that the first of these purposes would be effectually accomplished by
a system which should introduce and establish a clear and conclusive
distinction between the seamen of the two countries, which on all
occasions would be implicitly respected; that if they should consent
to make our commercial navy a floating asylum for all the British
seamen who, tempted by higher wages, should quit their service for
ours, the effect of such a concession upon their maritime strength, on
which Great Britain depended, not only for her prosperity but for her
safety, might be fatal; that on the most alarming emergency they might
be deprived, to an extent impossible to calculate, of their only means
of security; that our vessels might become receptacles for deserters
to any amount, and when once at sea might set at defiance the just
claims of the service to which such deserters belonged; that, even
within the United States, it could not be expected that any plan for
recovering British deserters could be efficacious; and that, moreover,
the plan we proposed was inadequate in its range and object, inasmuch
as it was merely prospective, confined wholly to deserters, and in no
respect provided for the case of the vast body of British seamen _now_
employed in our trade to every part of the world."

To these representations, which had a strong basis in fact and reason,
if once the British principle was conceded, the American negotiators
replied in detail as best they could. In such detail, the weight of
argument and of probability appears to the writer to rest with the
British case; but there is no adequate reply to the final American
assertion, which sums up the whole controversy, "that impressment upon
the high seas by those to whom that service is necessarily confided
must under any conceivable guards be frequently abused;" such abuse
being the imprisonment without trial of American citizens, as "a
pressed man," for an indefinite period. Lord Cochrane, a British naval
officer of rare distinction, stated in the House of Commons a few
years later that "the duration of the term of service in his Majesty's
Navy is absolutely without limitation."[160]

The American envoys were prevented by their instructions from
conceding this point, and from signing a treaty without some
satisfactory arrangement. Meantime, impressed by the conciliatoriness
of the British representatives, and doubtless in measure by the
evident seriousness of the difficulty experienced by the British
Government, they wrote home advising that the date for the
Non-Importation Act going into operation, now close at hand, should be
postponed; and, in accordance with a recommendation from the
President, the measure was suspended by Congress, with a provision for
further prolongation in the discretion of the Executive. On September
13 Fox died, an event which introduced further delays, esteemed not
unreasonable by Monroe and Pinkney. Their next letter home, however,
November 11,[161] while reporting the resumption of the negotiation,
announced also its failure by a deadlock on this principal subject of
impressment: "We have said everything that we could in support of our
claim, that the flag should protect the crew, which we have contended
was founded in unquestionable right.... This right was denied by the
British commissioners, who asserted that of their Government to seize
its subjects on board neutral vessels on the high seas, and also urged
that the relinquishment of it at this time would go far to the
overthrow of their naval power, on which the safety of the state
essentially depended." In support of the abstract right was quoted the
report from a law officer of the Crown, which "justified the
pretension by stating that the King had a right, by his prerogative,
to require the services of all his seafaring subjects against the
enemy, and to seize them by force wherever found, not being within the
territorial limits of another Power; that as the high seas were
extra-territorial, the merchant vessels of other Powers navigating on
them were not admitted to possess such a jurisdiction as to protect
British subjects from the exercise of the King's prerogative over

This was a final and absolute rejection of Madison's doctrine, that
merchant vessels on the high seas were under the jurisdiction only of
their own country. Asserted right was arrayed directly and
unequivocally against asserted right. Negotiation on that subject was
closed, and to diplomacy was left no further resort, save arms, or
submission to continued injury and insult. The British commissioners
did indeed submit a project,[162] in place of that of the United
States, rejected by their Government. By this it was provided that
thereafter the captain of a cruiser who should impress an American
citizen should be liable to heavy penalties, to be enacted by law; but
as the preamble to this proposition read, "Whereas it is not lawful
for a belligerent to impress or carry off, from on board a neutral,
seafaring persons _who are not the subjects of the belligerent_,"
there was admitted implicitly the right to impress those who were such
subjects, the precise point at issue. The Americans therefore
pronounced it wholly inadmissible, and repeated that no project could
be adopted "which did not allow our ships to protect their crews."

The provision made indispensable by the United States having thus
failed of adoption, the question arose whether the negotiation should
cease. The British expressed an earnest desire that it should not, and
as a means thereto communicated the most positive assurances from
their Government that "instructions have been given, and will be
repeated and enforced, for the observance of the greatest caution in
the impressing of British seamen; that the strictest care shall be
taken to preserve the citizens of the United States from molestation
or injury; and that prompt redress shall be afforded upon any
representation of injury."[163] To this assurance the American
commissioners attached more value as a safeguard for the future than
past experience warranted; but in London they were able to feel, more
accurately than an official in Washington, the extent and complexity
of the British problem, both in actual fact and in public feeling.
They knew, too, the anxious wish of the President for an accommodation
on other matters; so they decided to proceed with their discussions,
having first explicitly stated that they were acting on their own
judgment.[164] Consequently, whatever instrument might result from
their joint labors would be liable to rejection at home, because of
the failure of the impressment demand.

The discussions thus renewed terminated in a treaty of amity,
commerce, and navigation, signed by the four negotiators, December 31,
1806. Into the details of this instrument it is unnecessary to go, as
it never became operative. Jefferson persisted in refusing approval to
any formal convention which did not provide the required stipulation
against impressment. He was dissatisfied also with particular details
connected with the other arrangements. All these matters were set
forth at great length in a letter[165] of May 20, 1807, from Mr.
Madison to the American commissioners; in which they were instructed
to reopen negotiations on the basis of the treaty submitted,
endeavoring to effect the changes specified. The danger to Great
Britain from American commercial restriction was fully expounded, as
an argument to compel compliance with the demands; the whole
concluding with the characteristic remark that, "as long as
negotiation can be honorably protracted, it is a resource to be
preferred, under existing circumstances, to the peremptory alternative
of improper concessions or inevitable collisions." In other words, the
United States Government did not mean to fight, and that was all Great
Britain needed to know. That she would suffer from the closure of the
American market was indisputable; but, being assured of transatlantic
peace, there were other circumstances of high import, political as
well as commercial, which rendered yielding more inexpedient to her
than a commercial war.

At the end of March, 1807, within three months of the signature at
London, the British Ministry fell, and the disciples of Pitt returned
to power. Mr. Canning became Foreign Secretary. Circumstances were
then changing rapidly on the continent of Europe, and by the time
Madison's letter reached England a very serious event had modified
also the relations of the United States to Great Britain. This was the
attack upon the United States frigate "Chesapeake" by a British ship
of war, upon the high seas, and the removal of four of her crew,
claimed as deserters from the British Navy. Unofficial information of
this transaction reached England July 25, just one day after Monroe
and Pinkney had addressed to Canning a letter communicating their
instructions to reopen negotiations, and stating the changes deemed
desirable in the treaty submitted. The intervention of the
"Chesapeake" affair, to a contingent adjustment of which all other
matters had been postponed, delayed to October 22 the reply of the
British Minister.[166] In this, after a preamble of "distinct protest
against a practice, altogether unusual in the political transactions
of states, by which the American Government assumes to itself the
privilege of revising and altering agreements concluded and signed on
its behalf by its agents duly authorized for that purpose," Canning
thus announced the decision of the Cabinet: "The proposal of the
President of the United States for proceeding to negotiate anew, upon
the basis of a treaty already solemnly concluded and signed, is a
proposal wholly inadmissible. And his Majesty has therefore no option,
under the present circumstances of this transaction, but to acquiesce
in the refusal of the President of the United States to ratify the
treaty signed on December 31, 1806." The settlement of the
"Chesapeake" business having already been transferred to Washington,
by the appointment of a special British envoy, this rejection of
further consideration of the treaty closed all matters pending between
the two governments, except those appertaining to the usual duties of
a legation, and Monroe's mission ended. A fortnight later he sailed
for the United States. His place as regularly accredited Minister to
the British Court was taken by Pinkney, through whom were conducted
the subsequent important discussions, which arose from the marked
extension given immediately afterwards by France and Great Britain to
their several policies for the forcible restriction of neutral trade.

Those who have followed the course of the successive events traced in
this chapter, and marked their accelerating momentum, will be prepared
for the more extreme and startling occurrences which soon after ensued
as a matter of inevitable development. They will be able also to
understand how naturally the phrase, "Free Trade and Sailors' Rights,"
grew out of these various transactions, as the expression of the
demands and grievances which finally drove the United States into
hostilities; and will comprehend in what sense these terms were used,
and what the wrongs against which they severally protested. "Free
Trade" had no relation of opposition to a system of protection to home
industries, an idea hardly as yet formulated to consciousness, except
by a few advanced economists. It meant the trade of a nation carried
on according to its own free will, relieved from fetters forcibly
imposed by a foreign yoke, in which, under the circumstances of the
time, the resurrection of colonial bondage was fairly to be discerned.
"Sailors' Rights" expressed not only the right of the American seaman
to personal liberty of action,--in theory not contested, but in
practice continually violated by the British,--but the right of all
seamen under the American flag to its protection in the voluntary
engagements which they were then fulfilling. It voiced the sufferings
of the individual; the personal side of an injury, the reverse of
which was the disgrace of the nation responsible for his security.

It was afterwards charged against the administrations of Jefferson and
Madison, under which these events ran their course to their
culmination in war, that impressment was not a cause of the break
between the two countries, but was adduced subsequently to swell the
array of injuries, in which the later Orders in Council were the real
determinative factor. The drift of this argument was, that the Repeal
of the Orders, made almost simultaneously with the American
Declaration of War, and known in the United States two months later,
should have terminated hostilities. The British Government, in an
elaborate vindication of its general course, published in January,
1813, stated that, "in a manifesto, accompanying their declaration of
hostilities, in addition to the former complaints against the Orders
in Council, a long list of grievances was brought forward; but none of
them such as were ever before alleged by the American Government to be
grounds for war." In America itself similar allegations were made by
the party in opposition. The Maryland House of Delegates, in January,
1814, adopted a memorial, in which it was said that "The claim of
impressment, which has been so much exaggerated, but which was never
deemed of itself a substantive cause of war, has been heretofore
considered susceptible of satisfactory arrangement in the judgment of
both the commissioners, who were selected by the President then in
office to conduct the negotiation with the English ministry in the
year 1806."[167] The words of the commissioners in their official
letters of November 11, 1806,[168] and April 22, 1807,[169] certainly
sustain this statement as to their opinion, which was again
deliberately affirmed by Monroe in a justificatory review of their
course, addressed to Madison in February, 1808,[170] after his return.
Gaston, speaking in the House in February, 1814, said: "Sir, the
question of seamen was not a cause of this war. More than five years
had passed over since an arrangement on this question, perfectly
satisfactory to our ministers, [Monroe and Pinkney] had been made with
Great Britain; but it pleased not the President, and was rejected.
Yet, during the whole period that afterwards elapsed until the
declaration of war, no second effort was made to adjust this cause of

Gaston here is slightly in error as to fact, for the attack upon the
"Chesapeake" was made by the Government the occasion for again
demanding an abandonment of the practice of impressment from American
merchant ships; but, accepting the statements otherwise, nothing more
could be required of the Administration, so far as words went, than
its insistence upon this relinquishment as a _sine quâ non_ to any
treaty. Its instructions to its ministers in 1806 had placed this
demand first, not only in order, but in importance, coupling with it
as indispensable only one other condition, the freedom of trade; the
later and more extreme infringements of which were constituted by the
Orders in Council of 1807. After protracted discussion, the American
requirement as to impressment had been refused by Great Britain,
deliberately, distinctly, and in the most positive manner; nor does it
seem possible to concur with the opinion of our envoys that the
stipulations offered by her representatives, while not sacrificing the
British principle, did substantially and in practice secure the
American demands. These could be satisfactorily covered only by the
terms laid down by the Administration. Thereafter, any renewal of the
subject must come from the other side; it was inconsistent with
self-respect for the United States again to ask it, unless with arms
in her hands. To make further advances in words would have been, not
to negotiate, but to entreat. This, in substance, was the reply of the
Government to its accusers at home, and it is irrefutable.

It is less easy--rather, it is impossible--to justify the
Administration for refraining from adequate deeds, when the impotence
of words had been fully and finally proved. In part, this was due to
miscalculation, in itself difficult to pardon, from the somewhat
sordid grounds and estimates of national feeling upon which it
proceeded. The two successive presidents, and the party behind them,
were satisfied that Great Britain, though standing avowedly and
evidently upon grounds considered by her essential to national honor
and national safety, could be compelled to yield by the menace of
commercial embarrassment. That there was lacking in them the elevated
instinct, which could recognize that they were in collision with
something greater than a question of pecuniary profits, is in itself a
condemnation; and their statesmanship was at fault in not appreciating
that the enslaved conditions of the European continent had justly
aroused in Great Britain an exaltation of spirit, which was prepared
to undergo every extreme, in resistance to a like subjection, till
exhaustion itself should cause her weapons to drop from her hands.

The resentment of the United States Government for the injuries done
its people was righteous and proper. It was open to it to bear them
under adequate protest, sympathizing with the evident embarrassments
of the old cradle of the race; or, on the other hand, to do as she was
doing, strain every nerve to compel the cessation of outrage. The
Administration preferred to persist in its military and naval
economies, putting forth but one-half of its power, by measures of
mere commercial restriction. These impoverished its own people, and
divided national sentiment, but proved incapable within reasonable
time to reduce the resolution of the opponent. That that finally gave
way when war was clearly imminent proves, not that commercial
restriction alone was sufficient, but that coupled with military
readiness it would have attained its end more surely, and sooner;
consequently with less of national suffering, and no national

Entire conviction of the justice and urgency of the American
contentions, especially in the matter of impressment, and only to a
less degree in that of the regulation of trade by foreign force, as
impeaching national independence, is not enough to induce admiration
for the course of American statesmanship at this time. The acuteness
and technical accuracy of Madison's voluminous arguments make but more
impressive the narrowness of outlook, which saw only the American
point of view, and recognized only the force of legal precedent, at a
time when the foundations of the civilized world were heaving.
American interests doubtless were his sole concern; but what was
practicable and necessary to support those interests depended upon a
wide consideration and just appreciation of external conditions. That
laws are silent amid the clash of arms, seems in his apprehension
transformed to the conviction that at no time are they more noisy and
compulsive. Upon this political obtuseness there fell a kind of
poetical retribution, which gradually worked the Administration round
to the position of substantially supporting Napoleon, when putting
forth all his power to oppress the liberties of Spain, and of
embarrassing Great Britain at the time when a people in insurrection
against perfidy and outrage found in her their sole support. During
these eventful five years, the history of which we are yet to trace,
the bearing of successive British ministries towards the United States
was usually uncompromising, often arrogant, sometimes insolent, hard
even now to read with composure; but in the imminent danger of their
country, during a period of complicated emergencies, they held, with
cool heads, and with steady hands on the helm, a course taken in full
understanding of world conditions, and with a substantially just
forecast of the future. Among their presuppositions, in the period
next to be treated, was that America might argue and threaten, but
would not fight. There was here no miscalculation, for she did not
fight till too late, and she fought wholly unprepared.


[108] Wheaton's International Law, p. 753.

[109] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 476.

[110] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. pp. 472-474.

[111] Ibid., p. 503.

[112] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. p. 522.

[113] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. ii. p. 491.

[114] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 263.

[115] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 265.

[116] Ibid., p. 266.

[117] Ibid., p. 175.

[118] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 98.

[119] History of the United States, by Henry Adams, vol. ii. p. 423.

[120] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. ii. p. 491.

[121] Ibid., vol. iii. p. 145.

[122] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 114.

[123] Monroe to Madison, April 28, 1806. American State Papers, vol.
iii. p. 117.

[124] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 111.

[125] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 109,

[126] Ibid., p. 118.

[127] For the text of this measure, see American State Papers, Foreign
Relations, vol. iii. p. 267.

[128] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 443.

[129] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 446.

[130] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 195.
Author's italics.

[131] Ibid., p. 371.

[132] See, particularly, Foster to Monroe, July 3, 1811. American
State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 436.

[133] Ibid., pp. 428, 439.

[134] The Instructions to Monroe and Pinkney are found in American
State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 120.

[135] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 200,

[136] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. ii. p. 148.

[137] Correspondence of Thomas Barclay, edited by George L. Rives, New
York, 1894. For instances, see Index, Impressment.

[138] Works of John Adams, vol. viii. p. 456.

[139] Ante, p. 6.

[140] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. i. pp. 123-124.

[141] Jefferson's Works, Letter to T. Pinckney, Minister to Great
Britain, June 11, 1792.

[142] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. ii. pp. 145-150.

[143] See, for example, Naval Chronicle, vol. xxvi. pp. 215-221,

[144] Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, vol. iii. p. 115.

[145] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. ii. p. 150.

[146] Ibid., p. 493.

[147] Niles' Register, vol. v. p. 343.

[148] Correspondence, p. 210.

[149] Correspondence, p. 219.

[150] Ante, p. 7.

[151] Niles' Register, vol. v. Supplement, p. 105.

[152] King to Thomas Erskine. Life of King, vol. iii. p. 401.

[153] Russell to the Secretary of State, Sept. 17, 1812. American
State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 593.

[154] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. ii. pp. 427, 473.

[155] Ibid., vol. iii. p. 90.

[156] Ibid., p. 98.

[157] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. ii. pp. 776-798.

[158] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 131.
Author's italics.

[159] For the American report of these interviews, see Ibid., pp.

[160] Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates, vol. xxvi. p. 1103.

[161] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 137-140.

[162] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 140.

[163] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 140.

[164] Ibid., p. 139.

[165] Ibid., pp. 166-173.

[166] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 198.

[167] Niles' Register, vol. v. p. 377.

[168] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 139.

[169] Ibid., p. 161.

[170] Ibid., p. 173.

[171] Niles' Register, vol. v. Supplement, p. 102.




When the treaty of December 31, 1806, was about to be signed, the
British negotiators delivered to the Americans a paper, of the general
character of which they had been forewarned, but which in precise
terms then first came before them. Its origin was due to a
pronouncement of the French Emperor, historically known as the Decree
of Berlin, which was dated November 21, while the negotiations were in
progress, but had become fully known only when they had reached a very
advanced stage. The pretensions and policy set forth in the Decree
were considered by the British Government to violate the rights of
neutrals, with a specific and far-reaching purpose of thereby injuring
Great Britain. It was claimed that acquiescence in such violations by
the neutral, or submission to them, would be a concurrence in the
hostile object of the enemy; in which case Great Britain might feel
compelled to adopt measures retaliatory against France, through the
same medium of neutral navigation. In such steps she might be
fettered, should the present treaty take effect. In final
ratification, therefore, the British Government would be guided by the
action of the United States upon the Berlin Decree. Unless the Emperor
abandoned his policy, or "the United States by its conduct or
assurances will have given security to his Majesty that it will not
submit to such innovations on the established system of maritime law,
... his Majesty will not consider himself bound by the present
signature of his commissioners to ratify the treaty, or precluded from
adopting such measures as may seem necessary for counteracting the
designs of his enemy."[172] The American representatives transmitted
this paper to Washington, with the simple observation that "we do not
consider ourselves a party to it, or as having given it in any the
slightest degree our sanction."[173]

The Berlin Decree was remarkable not only in scope and spirit, but in
form. "It had excited in us apprehensions," wrote Madison to the
United States minister in Paris, "which were repressed only by the
inarticulate import of its articles, and the presumption that it would
be executed in a sense not inconsistent with the respect due to the
treaty between France and the United States." It bore, in fact, the
impress of its author's mind, which, however replete with knowledge
concerning conventional international law, defined in accordance with
the momentary and often hasty impulses of his own will, and
consequently often also with the obscurity attendant upon ill-digested
ideas. The preamble recited various practices of Great Britain as
subversive of international right; most of which were not so, but in
accordance with long-standing usage and general prescription. The
methods of blockade instituted by her were more exceptionable, and
were given prominence, with evident reference to the Order of May 16,
declaring the blockade of a long coast-line. It being evident, so ran
the Emperor's reasoning, that the object of this abuse of blockade was
to interrupt neutral commerce in favor of British, it followed that
"whoever deals on the Continent in English merchandise favors that
design, and becomes an accomplice." He therefore decreed, as a measure
of just retaliation, "that the British Islands were thenceforward in
a state of blockade; that all correspondence and commerce with them
was prohibited; that trade in English merchandise was forbidden; and
that all merchandise belonging to England, or" (even if neutral
property) "proceeding from its manufactories and colonies, is lawful
prize." No vessel coming directly from British dominions should be
received in any port to which the Decree was applicable. The scope of
its intended application was shown in the concluding command, that it
should be communicated "to the Kings of Spain, of Naples, of Holland,
of Etruria, and to our allies, whose subjects, like ours, are the
victims of the injustice and barbarism of the English maritime

The phrasing of the edict was ambiguous, as Madison indicated.
Notably, while neutral vessels having on board merchandise neutral in
property, but British in origin, were to be seized when voluntarily
entering a French port, it was not clear whether they were for the
same reason to be arrested when found on the high seas; and there was
equal failure to specify whether the proclaimed blockade authorized
the capture of neutrals merely because bound to the British Isles, as
was lawful if destined to a seaport effectively blockaded. Again, some
of the proposed measures, such as refusal of admission to vessels or
merchandise coming to French ports from British, were matters of
purely local concern and municipal regulation; whereas the seizure of
neutral property, because of English manufacture, was at least of
doubtful right, if exercised within municipal limits, and certainly
unlawful, if effected on the high seas. Whether such application was
intended could not certainly be inferred from the text. The genius of
the measure, as a whole, its inspiring motive and purpose, was
revealed in the closing words of the preamble: "This decree shall be
considered as the fundamental law of the Empire, until England has
acknowledged that the rights of war are the same an land and on sea;
that it [war] cannot be extended to any private property whatever; nor
to persons who are not military; and until the right of blockade be
restrained to fortified places, actually invested by competent
forces." These words struck directly at measures of war resting upon
long-standing usage, in which the strength of a maritime state such as
Great Britain was vitally implicated.

The claim for private property possesses particular interest; for it
involves a play upon words to the confusion of ideas, which from that
time to this has vitiated the arguments upon which have been based a
prominent feature of American policy. Private property at a standstill
is one thing. It is the unproductive money in a stocking, hid in a
closet. Property belonging to private individuals, but embarked in
that process of transportation and exchange which we call commerce, is
like money in circulation. It is the life-blood of national
prosperity, upon which war depends; and as such is national in its
employment, and only in ownership private. To stop such circulation is
to sap national prosperity; and to sap prosperity, upon which war
depends for its energy, is a measure as truly military as is killing
the men whose arms maintain war in the field. Prohibition of commerce
is enforced at will where an enemy's army holds a territory; if
permitted, it is because it inures to the benefit of the conqueror, or
at least from its restricted scope does not injure him. It will not be
doubted that, should a prohibition on shore be disregarded, the
offending property would be seized in punishment. The sea is the great
scene of commerce. The property transported back and forth,
circulating from state to state in exchanges, is one of the greatest
factors in national wealth. The maritime nations have been, and are,
the wealthy nations. To prohibit such commerce to an enemy is, and
historically has been, a tremendous blow to his fighting power; never
more conspicuously so than in the Napoleonic wars. But prohibition is
a vain show, in war as it is in civil government, if not enforced by
penalties; and the natural penalty against offending property is fine,
extending even to confiscation in extreme cases. The seizure of
enemy's merchant ships and goods, for violating the prohibition
against their engaging in commerce, is what is commonly called the
seizure of private property. Under the methods of the last two
centuries, it has been in administration a process as regular,
legally, as is libelling a ship for an action in damages; nor does it
differ from it in principle. The point at issue really is not, "Is the
property private?" but, "Is the method conducive to the purposes of
war?" Property strictly private, on board ship, but not in process of
commercial exchange, is for this reason never touched; and to do so is
considered as disgraceful as a common theft.

Napoleon, as a ruler, was always poverty-stricken. For that reason he
levied heavy contributions on conquered states, which it is needless
to say were paid by private taxpayers; and for the same reason, by
calling French ships and French goods "private property," he would
compel for them the freedom of the sea, which the maritime
preponderance of Great Britain denied them. He needed the revenue that
commerce would bring in. So as to blockades. In denying the right to
capture under a nominal blockade, unsupported by an effective force,
he took the ground which the common-sense of nations had long before
embodied in the common consent called international law. But he went
farther. Blockade is very inconvenient to the blockaded, which was the
rôle played by France. Along with the claim for "private property," he
formulated the proposition that the right of blockade is restrained
to fortified places; to which was afterwards added the corollary that
the place must be invested by land as well as by sea. It is to be
noticed that here also American policy showed a disposition to go
astray, by denying the legitimacy of a purely commercial blockade; a
tendency natural enough at that passing moment, when, as a weak
nation, it was desired to restrict the rights of belligerents, but
which in its results on the subsequent history of the country would
have been ruinous. John Marshall, one of the greatest names in
American jurisprudence, when Secretary of State in 1800, wrote to the
minister in London:

    On principle it might well be questioned whether this rule [of
    blockade] can be applied to a place not completely invested, by
    land as well as by sea. If we examine the reasoning on which is
    founded the right to intercept and confiscate supplies designed
    for a blockaded town, it will be difficult to resist the
    conviction that its extension to towns invested by sea only is
    an unjustifiable encroachment on the rights of neutrals. But it
    is not of this departure from principle (a departure which has
    received some sanction from practice) that we mean to

In 1810, the then Secretary of State enclosed to the American minister
in London the letter from which this extract is taken, among other
proofs of the positions maintained by the United States on the subject
of blockade. The particular claim cited was not directly indorsed; but
as its mention was unnecessary to the matter immediately in hand, we
may safely regard its retention as indicative of the ideal of the
Secretary, and of the President, Mr. Madison. In consequence, we find
the minister, William Pinkney, in his letter of January 14, 1811,
adducing Marshall's view to the British Foreign Secretary:

    It is by no means clear that it may not fairly be contended, on
    principle and early usage, that a maritime blockade is
    incomplete, with regard to States at peace,[176] unless the
    place which it would affect is invested by land, as well as by
    sea. The United States, however, have called for the recognition
    of no such rule. They appear to have contented themselves,

The error into which both these eminent statesmen fell is military in
character, and proceeds from the same source as the agitation in favor
of exempting so-called private property from capture. Both spring from
the failure to recognize a function of the sea, vital to the
maintenance of war by states which depend upon maritime commerce. To
forbid the free use of the seas to enemy's merchant ships and material
of commerce, differs in no wise in principle from shutting his ports
to neutral vessels, as well as to his own, by blockade. Both are aimed
at the enemy's sources of supply, at his communications; and the
penalty inflicted by the laws of war in both cases is the
same,--forfeiture of the offending property. With clear recognition of
this military principle involved, and of the importance of sustaining
it by Great Britain, British high officials repeatedly declared that
the Berlin Decree was to be regarded, not chiefly in its methods, but
in its object, or principle, which was to deprive Great Britain of her
principal weapon. This purpose stood avowed in the words, "this decree
shall be considered the fundamental law of the Empire until England
has acknowledged," etc. British statesmen correctly paraphrased this,
"has renounced the established foundations, admitted by all civilized
nations, of her maritime rights and interests, upon which depend the
most valuable rights and interests of the nation."[178] The British
authorities understood that, by relinquishing these rights, they would
abandon in great measure the control of the sea, so far as useful to
war. The United States have received their lesson in history. If the
principle contended for by their representatives, Marshall and
Pinkney, had been established as international law before 1861, there
could have been no blockade of the Southern coast in the Civil War.
The cotton of the Confederacy, innocent "private property," could have
gone freely; the returns from it would have entered unimpeded;
commerce, the source of national wealth, would have flourished in full
vigor; supplies, except contraband, would have flowed unmolested; and
all this at the price merely of killing some hundred thousands more
men, with proportionate expenditure of money, in the effort to
maintain the Union, which would probably have failed, to the
immeasurable loss of both sections.

The British Government took some time to analyze the "inarticulate
import" of the Berlin Decree. Hence, in the paper presented to Monroe
and Pinkney, stress was laid upon the methods only, ignoring the
object of compelling Great Britain to surrender her maritime rights.
In the methods, however, instinct divined the true character of the
plotted evil. There was to be formed, under military pressure, a vast
political combination of states pledged to exclude British commerce
from the markets of the Continent; a design which in execution
received the name of the Continental System. The Decree being issued
after the battle of Jena, upon the eve of the evident complete
subjugation of Prussia, following that of Austria the year before,
there was room to fear that the predominance of Napoleon on the
Continent would compel in Europe universal compliance with these
measures of exclusion. It so proved, in fact, in the course of 1807,
leading to a commercial warfare of extraordinary rigor, the effects of
which upon Europe have been discussed by the author in a previous
work.[179] Its influence upon the United States is now to be
considered; for it was a prominent factor in the causes of the War of

Although in a military sense weak to debility, and politically not
welded as yet into a nation, strong in a common spirit and accepted
traditions, the United States was already in two respects a force to
be considered. She possessed an extensive shipping, second in tonnage
only to that of the British Islands, to which it was a dangerous rival
in maintaining the commercial intercourse of Europe; while her
population and purchasing power were so increased as to constitute her
a very valuable market, manufacturing for which was chiefly in the
hands of Great Britain. It became, therefore, an object with Napoleon,
in prosecution of the design of the Berlin Decree, to draw the United
States into co-operation with the European continental system, by
shutting her ports to Great Britain; while the latter, confronted by
this double danger, sought to impose upon neutral navigation--almost
wholly American--such curtailment as should punish the Emperor and his
tributaries for their measures of exclusion, and also neutralize the
effect of these by forcing the British Islands into the chain of
communication by which Europe in general was supplied. To retaliate
the Berlin Decree upon the enemy, and by the same means to nourish the
trade of Great Britain, was the avowed twofold object. The shipping of
the United States found itself between hammer and anvil, crushed by
these opposing policies. Napoleon banned it from continental harbors,
if coming from England or freighted with English goods; Great Britain
forbade it going to a continental port, unless it had first touched at
one of hers; and both inflicted penalties of confiscation, when able
to lay hands on a vessel which had violated their respective commands.

The lack of precision in the terms of the Berlin Decree exposed it
from the first to much latitude of interpretation; and the Emperor
remaining absent from France for eight months after its promulgation,
preoccupied with an arduous warfare in Eastern Europe, the
construction of the edict by the authorities in Paris made little
alteration in existing conditions. Nevertheless, the impulse to
retaliate prevailed; and the British ministry with which Monroe and
Pinkney had negotiated, though comparatively liberal in political
complexion, would not wait for more precise knowledge. The occasion
was seized with a precipitancy which lent color to Napoleon's
assertion, that the leading aim was to favor their own trade by
depressing that of others. This had already been acknowledged as the
motive for interrupting American traffic in West India produce. Now
again, one week only after stating to Monroe and Pinkney that they
"could not believe that the enemy will ever seriously attempt to
enforce such a system," and without waiting to ascertain whether
neutral nations, the United States in particular, would, "contrary to
all expectations, acquiesce in such usurpations,"[180] the Government
on January 7, 1807, with no information as to the practical effect
given to the Decree in operation, issued an Order in Council, which
struck Americans directly and chiefly. Neutrals were forbidden to sail
from one port to another, both of which were so far under the control
of France or her allies that British vessels might not freely trade
thereat. This was aimed immediately at trade along the coast of
Europe, but it included, of course, the voyages from a hostile colony
to a hostile European port already interdicted by British rulings, of
which the new Order was simply an extension. It fell with particular
severity on Americans, accustomed to go from port to port, not
carrying on local coasting, but seeking markets for their outward
cargoes, or making up a homeward lading. It is true that the Cabinet
by which the Order was issued did not intend to forbid this particular
procedure; but the wording naturally implied such prohibition, and was
so construed by Madison,[181] who communicated his understanding to
the British minister at Washington. Before this letter could reach
London, the ministry changed, and the new Government refrained from
correcting the misapprehension. For this it was taken to task in
Parliament, by Lords Holland and Grenville.[182]

Monroe had once written to the British Foreign Secretary that "it
cannot well be conceived how it should be lawful to carry on commerce
from one port to another of the parent country, and not from its
colonies to the mother country."[183] This well meant argument, in
favor of opening the colonial trade, gave to the new step of the
British Cabinet a somewhat gratuitous indorsement of logical
consistency. A consciousness of this may have underlain the remarkable
terms in which this grievous restriction was imparted to the United
States Government, as evincing the singular indulgence of Great
Britain. Her minister in Washington, in conveying the Order to the
State Department, wrote: "His Majesty, with that forbearance and
moderation which have at all times distinguished his conduct, has
determined for the present to confine himself to exercising his
decided naval superiority in such a manner only as is authorized by
the acknowledged principles of the laws of nations, and has issued an
Order for preventing all commerce from port to port of his enemies;
comprehending in this Order not only the ports of France, but those of
other nations, as, either in alliance with France, or subject to her
dominion, have, by measures of active offence or by the exclusion of
British ships, taken part in the present war."[184] These words
characterized the measure as strictly retaliatory. They implied that
the extra-legal action of the enemy would warrant extra-legal action
by Great Britain, but asserted expressly that the present step was
sanctioned by existing law,--"in such a manner only as is authorized
by the acknowledged principles of the law of nations." The prohibition
of coasting trade could be brought under the law of nations only by
invoking the Rule of 1756, forbidding neutrals to undertake for a
state at war employment denied to them in peace. Of this, coasting was
a precise instance; but to call the Rule an acknowledged principle of
the law of nations was an assumption peculiarly calculated to irritate
Madison, who had expended reams in refutation. He penned two careful
replies, logical, incisive, and showing the profound knowledge of the
subject which distinguished him; but in a time of political convulsion
he contended in vain against men who wore swords and thought their
country's existence imperilled.

The United States authorities argued by text and precedent. To the end
they persisted in shutting their eyes to the important fact,
recognized intuitively by Great Britain, that the Berlin Decree was no
isolated measure, to be discussed on its separate merits, but an
incident in an unprecedented political combination, already
sufficiently defined in tendency, which overturned the traditional
system of Europe. It destroyed the checks inherent in the balance of
power, concentrating the whole in the hands of Napoleon, to whom there
remained on the Continent only one valid counterweight, the Emperor of
Russia, whom he soon after contrived to lead into his scheme of
policy. The balance of power was thus reduced to the opposing scales
of Great Britain and France, and for five years so remained. The
Continental System, embracing all the rest of Europe, was arrayed
against Great Britain, and might well look to destroy her, if it could
command the support of the United States. Founded upon armed power, it
proposed by continuous exertion of the same means to undermine the
bases of British prosperity, and so to subvert the British Empire. The
enterprise was distinctly military, and could be met only by measures
of a similar character, to which existing international law was
unequal. The corner-stone was the military power of Napoleon, which,
by nullifying the independence of the continental states, compelled
them to adopt the methods of the Berlin Decree contrary to their will,
and contrary to the wishes, the interests, and the bare well-being of
their populations. "You will see," wrote an observant American
representative abroad, "that Napoleon stalks at a gigantic stride
among the pygmy monarchs of Europe, and bends them to his policy. It
is even an equal chance if Russia, after all her blustering, does not
accede to his demands without striking a blow."[185] To meet the
danger Great Britain opposed a maritime dominion, equally exclusive,
equally founded on force, and exercised in equally arbitrary fashion
over the populations of the sea.

At the end of March, 1807, the British Cabinet with which Monroe and
Pinkney had negotiated went out of office. Their successors came in
prepared for extreme action in consequence of the Berlin Decree; but
their hand was for the moment stayed, because its enforcement remained
in abeyance, owing to the Emperor's continued absence in the field.
Towards the claims of the United States their attitude was likely to
be uncompromising; and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Canning, to
whom fell the expression of the Government's views and purposes,
possessed an adroitness in fastening upon minor weaknesses in a case,
and postponing to such the consideration of the important point at
issue, which, coupled with a peremptoriness of tone often bordering on
insolence, effected nothing towards conciliating a people believed to
be both unready and unwilling to fight. The American envoys, at their
first interview, in April, met him with the proposition of their
Government to reopen negotiations on the basis of the treaty of
December 31. Learning from them that the treaty would not be ratified
without a satisfactory arrangement concerning impressment, Canning
asked what relations would then obtain between the two nations. The
reply was that the United States Government wished them placed
informally on the most friendly footing; that is, that an
understanding should be reached as to practical action to be expected
on either side, without concessions of principle.[186] As final
instructions from Washington were yet to come, it was agreed that the
matter should be postponed. When they arrived, on July 16, the envoys
drew up a letter, submitting the various changes desired; but
conveying also the fixed determination of the President "to decline
any arrangement, formal or informal, which does not comprise a
provision against impressments from American vessels on the high seas,
and which would, notwithstanding, be a bar to legislative measures by
Congress for controlling that species of aggression."[187]

This letter was dated July 24, but by the time it could be delivered
news arrived which threw into the background all matters of
negotiation and illustrated with what respect British naval officers
regarded "the instructions, repeated and enforced, for the observance
of the greatest caution in impressing British seamen."[188] It is
probable, indeed, that the change of ministry, and the well-understood
tone of the new-comers, had modified the influence of these
restraining orders; and Canning evidently felt that such an inference
was natural, for Monroe reported his noticeable desire "to satisfy me
that no new orders had been issued by the present ministry to the
commandant of the British squadron at Halifax," who was primarily
responsible for the lamentable occurrence which here traversed the
course of negotiation. It had been believed, and doubtless correctly,
that some deserters from British ships of war had found their way into
the naval service of the United States. In June, 1807, the American
frigate "Chesapeake," bearing the broad pendant of Commodore James
Barron, had been fitting for sea in Hampton Roads. At this time two
French ships of war were lying off Annapolis, a hundred miles up
Chesapeake Bay; and, to prevent their getting to sea, a small British
squadron had been assembled at Lynnhaven Bay, just within Cape Henry,
a dozen miles below the "Chesapeake's" anchorage. They were thus, as
Jefferson said, enjoying the hospitality of the United States. On June
22 the American frigate got under way for sea, and as she stood down,
one of the British, the "Leopard" of fifty guns, also made sail, going
out ahead of her. Shortly after noon the "Chesapeake" passed the
Capes. When about ten miles outside, a little after three o'clock, the
"Leopard" approached, and hailed that she had a despatch for Commodore
Barron. This was brought on board by a lieutenant, and proved to be a
letter from the captain of the "Leopard," enclosing an order from
Vice-Admiral Berkeley, in charge of the Halifax station, "requiring
and directing the captains and commanders of his Majesty's vessels
under my command, in case of meeting the American frigate, the
'Chesapeake,' at sea, without the limits of the United States, to show
her captain this order, and to require to search his ship for
deserters from certain British ships," specified by name. Upon
Barron's refusal, the "Leopard" fired into the "Chesapeake," killed or
wounded twenty-one men, and reduced her to submission. The order for
search was then enforced. Four of the American crew, considered to be
British deserters, were taken away. Of these, one was hanged; one
died; and the other two, after prolonged disputation, were returned
five years later to the deck of the "Chesapeake," in formal

Word of this transaction reached the British Government before it did
Monroe, who was still sole American minister for all matters except
the special mission. Canning at once wrote him a letter of regret, and
spontaneously promised "prompt and effectual reparation," if upon
receipt of full information British officers should prove culpable.
Four days later, July 29, Monroe and Canning met in pursuance of a
previous appointment, the object of which had been to discuss
complaints against the conduct of British ships of war on the coast of
the United States. The "Chesapeake" business naturally now
overshadowed all others. Monroe maintained that, on principle, a ship
of war could not be entered to search for deserters, or for any
purpose, without violating the sovereignty of her nation. Canning was
very guarded; no admission of principle could then be obtained from
him; but he gave Monroe to understand that, in whatever light the
action of the British officer should be viewed by his Government, the
point whether the men seized were British subjects or American
citizens would be of consideration, in the question of restoring
them, now that they were in British hands. Monroe, in accordance with
the position of his Government on the subject of impressment, replied
that the determining consideration was not the nationality of the men,
but of the ship, the flag of which had been insulted.

The conference ended with an understanding that Monroe would send in a
note embodying his position and claims. This he did the same day;[189]
but his statements were grounded upon newspaper accounts, as the
British Government had not yet published Berkeley's official report.
He would not await the positive information that must soon be given
out, but applied strong language to acts not yet precisely
ascertained; and he mingled with the "Chesapeake" affair other very
real, but different and minor, subjects of complaint, seemingly with a
view to cumulative effect. He thus made the mistake of encumbering
with extraneous or needless details a subject which required separate,
undivided, and lucid insistence; while Canning found an opportunity,
particularly congenial to his temperament, to escape under a cloud of
dignified words from the simple admission of wrong, and promise of
reparation, which otherwise he would have had to face. He could assume
a tone of haughty rebuke, where only that of apology should have been
left open. His reply ran thus:

    I have the honor to acknowledge your official note of the 29th
    ultimo, which I have lost no time in laying before the King.

    As _the statement_ of the transaction to which this note refers
    is not brought forward either by the authority of the Government
    of the United States, _or with any precise knowledge of the
    facts on which it is founded_, it might have been sufficient for
    me to express to you his Majesty's readiness to take the whole
    of the circumstances of the case, _when fully disclosed_, into
    his consideration, and to make reparation for any _alleged
    injury_ to the sovereignty of the United States, whenever it
    should be _clearly shown_ that such injury has been _actually
    sustained_, and that such reparation is _really due_.

    Of the existence of such a disposition on the part of the
    British Government, you, Sir, cannot be ignorant; I have already
    assured you of it, though in an unofficial form, by the letter
    which I addressed you on the first receipt of the intelligence
    of this unfortunate transaction; and I may, perhaps, be
    permitted to express my surprise, after such an assurance, at
    the tone of that representation which I have just had the honor
    to receive from you.

    But the earnest desire of his Majesty to evince, in the most
    satisfactory manner, the principles of justice and moderation by
    which he is uniformly actuated, has not permitted him to
    hesitate in commanding me to assure you, that his Majesty
    neither does, nor has at any time maintained the pretension of a
    right to search ships of war, in the national service of any
    State, for deserters.

    _If_, therefore, _the statement in your note should prove to be
    correct_, and to contain all the circumstances of the case, upon
    which the complaint is intended to be made, and it shall appear
    that the action of his Majesty's officers rested on no other
    grounds than the simple and unqualified assertion of the
    pretension above referred to, his Majesty has no difficulty in
    disavowing the act, and will have no difficulty in manifesting
    his displeasure at the conduct of his officers.

    With respect to the other causes of complaint, (whatever they
    may be,) which are hinted at in your note, I perfectly agree
    with you, in the sentiment which you express, as to the
    propriety of not involving them in a question, which of itself
    is of sufficient importance to claim a separate and most serious

    _I have only to lament that the same sentiment did not induce
    you to abstain from alluding to these subjects_, on an occasion
    which you were yourself of opinion was not favorable for
    pursuing the discussion of them.[190]

    I have the honor to be, with great consideration, your most
    obedient, humble servant

                                             GEORGE CANNING.


While the right of the occasion was wholly with the American nation,
the honors of the discussion, the weight of the first broadside,
rested so far with the British Secretary; the more so that Monroe, by
his manner of adducing his "other causes of complaint," admitted their
irrelevancy and yet characterized them irritatingly to his
correspondent. "I might state other examples of great indignity and
outrage, many of which are of recent date, to which the United States
have been exposed off their own coast, and even within several of
their harbors, from the British squadron; but it is improper to mingle
them with the present more serious causes of complaint." This invited
Canning's retort,--You do mingle them, in the same sentence in which
you admit the impropriety. And why, he shrewdly insinuated,
precipitate action ahead of knowledge, when the facts must soon be
known? The unspoken reason is evident. Because a government, which by
its own fault is weak, will try with big words to atone to the public
opinion of its people for that which it cannot, or will not, effect in
deeds. Bluster, whether measured or intemperate in terms, is bluster
still, as long as it means only talk, not act.

Monroe comforted himself that, though Canning's note was "harsh," he
had obtained the "concession of the point desired."[191] he had in
fact obtained less than would probably have resulted from a policy of
which the premises were assured, and the demands rigorously limited to
the particular offence. Canning's note set the key for the subsequent
British correspondence, and dictated the methods by which he
persistently evaded an amends spontaneously promised under the first
emotions produced by an odious aggression. He continued to offer it;
but under conditions impossible of acceptance, and as discreditable to
the party at fault as they were humiliating to the one offended. In
themselves, the first notes exchanged between Monroe and Canning are
trivial, a revelation chiefly of individual characteristics. Their
interest lies in the exemplification of the general course of the
American administration, imposed by its years of temporizing, of
money-getting, and of military parsimony. President Jefferson in
America met the occasion precisely as did Monroe in London, with the
same result of a sharp correspondence, abounding in strong language,
but affording Canning further opportunity to confuse issues and escape
from reparations, which, however just and wise, were distasteful. It
was a Pyrrhic victory for the British minister, destroying the last
chance of conciliating American acquiescence in a line of action
forced upon Great Britain by Napoleon; but as a mere question of
dialectics he had scored a success.

When the news of the "Chesapeake" outrage was received in Washington,
Jefferson issued a proclamation, dated July 2, 1807, suited chiefly
for home consumption, as the phrase goes. He began with a recitation
of the various wrongs and irritations, undeniable and extreme, which
his long-suffering Administration had endured from British cruisers,
and to which Monroe alluded in his note to Canning. Upon this followed
an account of the "Chesapeake" incident, thus inextricably entangled
with other circumstances differing from it in essential feature. Then,
taking occasion by a transaction which, however reprehensible, was
wholly external to the territory of the United States,--unless
construed to extend to the Gulf Stream, according to one of
Jefferson's day-dreams,--action was based upon the necessity of
providing for the internal peace of the nation and the safety of its
citizens, and consequently of refusing admission to British ships of
war, as inconsistent with these objects. Therefore, "all armed
vessels, bearing commissions under the Government of Great Britain,
now within the harbors of the United States, are required immediately
and without any delay to depart from the same; and entrance of all the
said harbors and waters is interdicted to the said armed vessels, and
to all others bearing commissions under the authority of the British
Government." Vessels carrying despatches were excepted.

This procedure had the appearance of energy which momentarily
satisfies a public demand that something shall be done. It also
afforded Canning the peg on which to hang a grievance, and dexterously
to prolong discussion until the matter became stale in public
interest. By the irrelevancy of the punishment to the crime, and by
the intrusion of secondary matters into the complaint, the
"Chesapeake" issue, essentially clear, sharp, and impressive, became
hopelessly confused with other considerations. Upon the proclamation
followed a despatch from Madison to Monroe, July 6, which opened with
the just words, "This enormity is not a subject for discussion," and
then proceeded to discuss at length. Demand was to be made, most
properly, for a formal disavowal, and for the restoration of the
seamen to the ship. This could have been formulated in six lines, and
had it stood alone could scarcely have been refused; but to it was
attached indissolubly an extraneous requirement. "As a security for
the future, an entire abolition of impressment from vessels[192] under
the flag of the United States, if not already arranged, is also to
make an _indispensable part of the satisfaction_."[193]

This made accommodation hopeless. Practically, it was an ultimatum;
for recent notorious discussion had demonstrated that this the British
Government would not yield, and as it differed essentially from the
point at issue in the "Chesapeake" affair, there was no reason to
expect a change of attitude in consequence of that. Great as was the
wrong to a merchant vessel, it has not the status of a ship of war,
which carries even into foreign ports a territorial immunity
resembling that of an ambassador, representing peculiarly the
sovereignty of its nation. Further, the men taken from the
"Chesapeake" were not seized as liable to impressment, but arrested as
deserters; the case was distinct. Finally, Great Britain's power to
maintain her position on impressment had certainly not waned under the
"Chesapeake" humiliation, and was not likely to succumb to peremptory
language from Madison. No such demand should have been advanced, in
such connection, by a self-respecting government, unless prepared to
fight instantly upon refusal. The despatch indeed contains cautions
and expressions indicating a sense of treading on dangerous ground; an
apprehension of exciting hostile action, though no thought of taking
it. The exclusion of armed vessels was justified "by the vexations and
dangers to our peace, experienced from these visits." The reason, if
correct, was adequate as a matter of policy under normal conditions;
but it became inconsistent with self-respect when the national flag
was insulted in the attack on the "Chesapeake." Entire composure, and
forbearance from demonstrations bearing a trace of temper, alone
comport with such a situation. To distinguish against British ships of
war at such a moment, by refusing them only, and for the first time,
admission into American harbors, was either a humiliating confession
of impotence to maintain order within the national borders, or it
justified Canning's contention that it was in retaliation for the
"Leopard's" action. His further plea, that it must therefore be taken
into the account in determining the reparation due, was pettifogging,
reducing a question of insult and amends to one of debit and credit
bookkeeping; but the American claim that the step was necessary to
internal quiet was puerile, and its precipitancy carried the
appearance of petulance.

Monroe received Madison's despatch August 30, and on September 3 had
an interview with Canning. In it he specified the redress indicated by
Madison. With this was coupled an intimation that a special mission to
the United States ought to be constituted, to impart to the act of
reparation "a solemnity which the extraordinary nature of the
aggression particularly required." This assertion of the extraordinary
nature of the occasion separated the incident from the impressment
grievance, with which Madison sought to join it; but what is more
instructively noticeable is the contrast between this extreme
formality, represented as requisite, and the wholly informal, and as
it proved unreal, withdrawal by Napoleon of his Decrees, which the
Administration of Madison at a later day maintained to be sufficient
for the satisfaction of Great Britain.

In this interview[194] Canning made full use of the advantages given
him by his adversaries' method of presentation and action. "He said
that by the President's proclamation, and the seizure and detention of
some men who had landed on the coast to procure water, the Government
seemed to have taken redress into its own hands." To Monroe's
statement that "the suppression of the practice of impressment from
merchant vessels had been made indispensable by the late aggression,
for reasons which were sufficiently known to him," he retorted, "that
the late aggression was an act different in all respects to the
former practice; and ought not to be connected with it, as it showed a
disposition to make a particular incident, in which Great Britain was
in the wrong, instrumental to an accommodation in a case in which his
Government held a different doctrine." The remark went to the root of
the matter. This was what the Administration was trying to do. As
Madison afterwards put it to Rose, the President was desirous "of
converting a particular incident into an occasion for removing another
and more extensive source of danger to the harmony of the two
countries." This plausible rendering was not likely to recommend to a
resolute nation such a method of obtaining surrender of a claimed
right. The exclusion proclamation Monroe represented to be "a mere
measure of police indispensable for the preservation of order within
the United States." Canning declined to be shaken from his stand that
it was an exhibition of partiality against Great Britain, the vessels
of which alone were excluded, because of an outrage committed by one
of them outside of American waters. The time at which the proclamation
issued, and the incorporation in it of the "Chesapeake" incident, made
this view at least colorable.

This interview also was followed by an exchange of notes. Monroe's of
September 7, 1807, developed the American case and demand as already
given. That of Canning, September 23, stated as follows the dilemma
raised by the President's proclamation: Either it was an act of
partiality between England and France, the warships of the latter
being still admitted, or it was an act of retaliation for the
"Chesapeake" outrage, and so of the nature of redress, self-obtained,
it is true, but to be taken into account in estimating the reparation
which the British Government "acknowledged to have been originally
due."[195] To the request for explanation Monroe replied lamely, with
a statement which can scarcely be taken as other than admitting the
punitive character of the proclamation. "There certainly existed no
desire of giving a preference;" but,--"_Before, this aggression_ it is
well known that His Britannic Majesty's ships of war lay within the
waters of the Chesapeake, and enjoyed all the advantages of the most
favored nation; it cannot therefore be doubted that my Government will
be ready _to restore them to the same situation as soon as it can be
done consistently with the honor and rights of the United

In closing his letter of September 23, Canning asked Monroe whether he
could not, consistently with his instructions, separate the question
of impressment from that of the "Chesapeake." If not, as it was the
fixed intention of his Government not to treat the two as connected,
the negotiation would be transferred to Washington, and a special
envoy sent. "But in order to avoid the inconvenience which has arisen
from the mixed nature of your instructions, he will not be empowered
to entertain, as connected with this subject, any proposition
respecting the search of merchant vessels."[197] Monroe replied that
his "instructions were explicit to consider the whole of this class of
injuries as an entire subject."[198] To his inquiry as to the nature
of the special mission, in particulars, Canning replied that it would
be limited in the first instance to the question of the "Chesapeake."
Whether it would have any further scope, he could not say.[199]

Mr. George Henry Rose was nominated for this mission, and sailed from
England in November. Before his departure, the British Government took
a further step, which in view of the existing circumstances, and of
all that had preceded, emphasized beyond the possibility of
withdrawal the firmness of its decision not to surrender the claim to
impress British subjects from foreign merchant vessels. On October 16,
1807, a Royal Proclamation was issued, recalling all seafaring persons
who had entered foreign services, whether naval or merchant, directing
them to withdraw at once from such service and return home, or else to
ship on board any accessible British ship of war. Commanders of naval
vessels were ordered to seize all such persons whenever found by them
on board foreign merchantmen. In the case of British-born subjects,
known to be serving on board foreign men-of-war,--which was the case
of the "Chesapeake,"--the repetition of the outrage was implicitly
forbidden, by prescribing the procedure to be observed. Requisition
for the discharge of such persons was to be made on the foreign
captain, and, in case of refusal, the particulars of the case were to
be transmitted to the British minister to the nation concerned, or to
the British home authorities; "in order that the necessary steps may
be taken for obtaining redress ... for the injury done to us by the
unwarranted detention of our natural-born subjects in the service of a
foreign state." The proclamation closed by denying the efficacy of
letters of naturalization to discharge native British from their
allegiance of birth.

Rose's mission proved abortive. Like Monroe's, his instructions were
positive to connect with his negotiation a matter which, if not so
irrelevant as impressment, was at least of a character that a politic
foreign minister might well have disregarded, in favor of the
advantage to be gained by that most conciliatory of actions, a full
and cordial apology. Rose was directed not to open his business until
the President had withdrawn the proclamation excluding British ships
of war. Having here no more option than Monroe as to impressment, the
negotiation became iron-bound. The United States Government went to
the utmost limit of concession to conclude the matter. Receding from
its first attitude, it agreed to sever the question of impressment
from that of the "Chesapeake;" but, with regard to the recalling of
the President's proclamation, it demanded that Rose should show his
cards, should state what was the nature and extent of the reparation
he was empowered to offer, and whether it was conditioned or
unconditioned. If this first outcome were such as to meet the just
expectations of the Administration, revocation of the proclamation
should bear the same date as the British act of reparation. Certainly,
more could not be offered. The Government could not play a blind game,
yielding point after point in reliance upon the unknown contents of
Rose's budget. This, however, was what it was required to do,
according to the British envoy's reading of his orders, and the matter
terminated in a fruitless exchange of argumentation.[200] In April,
1808, Rose quitted the country, and redress for the "Chesapeake"
injury remained in abeyance for three years longer. Interest in it had
waned under more engrossing events which had already taken place, and
it was relegated by both Governments to the background of diplomacy.
Admiral Berkeley had been recalled, as a mark of his Majesty's
disapproval. He arrived in England in the beginning of 1808, some six
months after the outrage, accompanied by the "Leopard." Her captain
was not again given a ship; but before the end of the year the chief
offender, the admiral, had been assigned to the important command at
Lisbon. To Pinkney's observation upon this dissatisfying proceeding,
Canning replied that it was impossible for the Admiralty to resist his
claim to be employed (no other objection existing against him) after
such a lapse of time since his return from Halifax, without bringing
him to a court-martial.[201] In the final settlement, further
punishment of Berkeley was persistently refused.

Although standing completely apart from the continuous stream of
connected events which constituted contemporaneous history,--perhaps
because of that very separateness,--the "Chesapeake" affair marks
conspicuously the turning-point in the relations of the two countries.
In point of time, its aptness as a sign-post is notable; for it
occurred just at the moment when the British ministry, under the
general exigencies of the situation, and the particular menace of the
Tilsit compacts between Napoleon and the Czar, were meditating the new
and extraordinary maritime system by which alone they might hope to
counteract the Continental system that now threatened to become truly
coextensive with Europe. But to the writer the significance of the
"Chesapeake" business is more negative than positive; it suggests
rather what might have been under different treatment by the Portland
ministry. The danger to Great Britain was imminent and stupendous, and
her measures of counteraction needed to correspond. These were
confessedly illegal in the form they took, and were justified by their
authors only on the ground of retaliation. Towards neutrals, among
whom the United States were by far the chief, they were most
oppressive. Yet for over four years not only did the American
Government endure them, but its mercantile community conformed to the
policy of Great Britain, found profit in so doing, and deprecated
resort to war. At a later day Jefferson asserted bitterly that under
British influence one fourth of the nation had compelled the other
three fourths to abandon the embargo. Whether this be quite a fair
statement may be doubted; but there was in it so much of truth as to
suggest the possibility, if not of acquiescence in the Orders in
Council, at least of such abstention from active resentment as would
have been practically equivalent.

The acquiescence, if possible even the co-operation, of America was at
this time momentous to Great Britain as well as to Napoleon. To
complete his scheme for ruining his enemy, by closing against her
commerce all the ports of Europe, the Emperor needed to deprive her
also of access to the markets of the United States; while the grave
loss to which Great Britain was exposed in the one quarter made it
especially necessary to retain the large and increasing body of
consumers across the Atlantic. In the United States there was a
division of public opinion and feeling, which offered a fair chance of
inclining national action in one direction or the other. Although the
Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of December 31, 1806, had been
rejected by the Administration, and disapproved by the stricter
followers of Jefferson and Madison, it was regarded with favor in many
quarters. Its negotiators had represented the two leading parties
which divided the nation. Monroe was a republican, traditionally
allied to Jefferson; Pinkney was a federalist. Although in it the
principles of the United States had not been successfully asserted, as
regarded either impressment or the transport of colonial produce, the
terms of compromise had commanded their signatures, because they held
that in effect the national objects were obtained; that impressment
would practically cease, and the carrying trade, under the
restrictions they had accepted, would not only nourish, but be as
remunerative as before. Monroe, who had a large personal following in
his state and party, maintained this view in strong and measured
language after his return home; and it found supporters in both
political camps, as well as upon the floor of the two houses of
Congress. Then, and afterwards, it was made a reproach to the
Administration that it had refused a working arrangement which was
satisfactory in its substantial results and left the principles of the
country untouched for future assertion. Whatever may be thought, from
an American standpoint, of the justice or dignity of this position, it
showed grave divergences of sentiment, from which it is the skill of
an opposing diplomatist to draw profit. It is impossible to estimate
the effect upon the subsequent course of America, if the British
ministry, with a certain big-heartedness, had seized the opportunity
of the "Chesapeake" affair; if they had disclaimed the act of their
officers with frankness and cordiality, offering ungrudging regret,
and reparation proportionate to the shame inflicted upon a community
too weak in military power to avenge its wrongs. As it was, at a
moment when the hostilities she had provoked would have been most
embarrassing, Great Britain escaped only by the unreadiness of the
American Government.

Left unatoned, the attack on the "Chesapeake" remained in American
consciousness where Jefferson and Madison had sought to place it,--an
example of the outrages of impressment. The incidental violence, which
aroused attention and wrath, differed in nothing but circumstance from
the procedure when an unresisting merchant vessel was deprived of men.
In both cases there was the forcible exaction of a disputed claim.
Canning, indeed, was at pains to explain that originally the British
right extended to vessels of every kind; but "for nearly a century the
Crown had forborne to instruct the commanders of its ships of war to
search foreign ships of war for deserters, ... because to attack a
national ship of war is an act of hostility. The very essence of the
charge against Admiral Berkeley, as you represent it, is the having
taken upon himself to commit an act of hostility without the previous
authority of his Government." Under this construction, the incident
only served to emphasize the fundamental opposition of principle, and
to exasperate the war party in the United States. To deprive a foreign
merchant vessel of men was not considered a hostile act; and the
difference in the case of ships of war was only because the Crown
chose so to construe. The argument was, that to retain seamen of
British birth, when recalled by proclamation, was itself hostile,
because every such seaman disobeying this call was a deserter. It was
to be presumed that a foreign Power would not countenance their
detention, and on this presumption no search of its commissioned ships
was ordered. "But with respect to merchant vessels there is no such

While the "Chesapeake" affair was still in its earlier stages of
discussion, the passage of events in Europe was leading rapidly to the
formulation of the extreme British measures of retaliation for the
Berlin Decree. On June 14 Napoleon defeated the Russians at the battle
of Friedland; and on June 22, the day the "Leopard" attacked the
"Chesapeake," an armistice was signed between the contending parties.
Upon this followed the Conventions of Tilsit, July 8, 1807, by which
the Czar undertook to support the Continental system, and to close his
ports to Great Britain. The deadly purpose of the commercial warfare
thus reinforced was apparent; and upon the Emperor's return to Paris,
soon afterwards, the Berlin Decree received an execution more
consonant to its wording than was the construction hitherto given it
by French officials. In May, an American ship, the "Horizon," bound
from England to Peru, had been wrecked upon the coast of France. Her
cargo consisted in part of goods of British origin. Up to that time,
no decisions contrary to American neutral rights had been based upon
the Decree by French courts; but final action in the case of the
"Horizon" was not taken till some time after the Emperor's return.
Meanwhile, on August 9, General Armstrong, the American minister, had
asked that Spain, which had formally adopted the Berlin Decree as
governing its own course, should be informed of the rulings of the
French authorities; "for a letter from the _chargé des affaires_ of
the United States at Madrid shows that the fate of sundry American
vessels, captured by Spanish cruisers, will depend, not on the
construction which might be given to the Spanish decree by Spanish
tribunals, but on the practice which shall have been established in
France."[203] This letter was referred in due course--August 21--to
the Minister of Marine, and a reply promised when his answer should be
received. Under Napoleon's eye, doubts not entertained in his absence
seem to have occurred to the ministers concerned, and on September 24
Armstrong learned that the Emperor had been consulted, and had said
that, as he had expressed no exceptions to the operation of his
Decree, French armed vessels were authorized to seize goods of English
origin on board neutral vessels. This decision, having the force of
law, was communicated to the tribunals, and under it so much of the
"Horizon's" cargo as answered to this description was condemned. The
rest was liberated.[204]

When this decision became known, it was evident that within the range
of Napoleon's power there would henceforth be no refuge for British
manufactures, or the produce of British colonies; that neutral
ownership or jurisdiction would be no protection against force. Even
the pity commonly extended to the shipwrecked failed, if his property
had been bought in England. Recognition of the increased danger was
shown in the doubling and trebling of insurance. The geographical
sweep intended to be given to the edict was manifested by the action
of state after state whither arms had extended Napoleon's influence;
or, as Armstrong phrased it, "having settled the business of
belligerents, with the exception of England, very much to his own
liking, he was now on the point of settling that of neutrals in the
same way." In July, Denmark and Portugal, as yet at peace, had been
notified that they must choose between France and England, and had
been compelled to exclude English commerce. August 29, a French
division entered Leghorn, belonging to the nominally independent
Kingdom of Etruria, took possession of the harbor and forts, ordered
the surrender of all British goods in the hands of the inhabitants,
and laid a general embargo upon the shipping, among which were many
Americans. In Lower Italy, the Papal States and Naples underwent the
same restrictions. Prussia yielded under obvious constraint, and
Austria acceded from motives of policy, distinguishable in form only
from direct compulsion. Russia, as already said, had joined
immediately after decisive defeat in the field. The co-operation of
the United States, the second maritime nation in the world, was vital
to the general plan. Could it be secured? Already, at an audience
given to the diplomatic corps on August 2, the Danish minister had
taken Armstrong aside and asked him whether any application had been
made to him with regard to the projected _union of all commercial
states against Great Britain_. Being answered in the negative, he
said, "You are much favored, but it will not last."[205] Armstrong
characterized this incident as not important; but in truth the words
italicized defined exactly the menacing scheme already matured in the
Emperor's mind, for the execution of which, as events already showed,
and continued to prove, he relied upon the force of arms. To this the
United States was not accessible; but to coerce or cajole her by other
means became a prominent feature of French policy, which was
powerfully abetted by the tone of Great Britain speaking through

To appreciate duly the impending measures of the British ministry,
attention should fasten upon the single decisive fact that this vast
combination was not the free act of the parties concerned, but a
submission imposed by an external military power, which at the moment,
and for five succeeding years, they were unable to resist. It is one
thing to deny the right of any number of independent communities to
join in a Customs Union; it is another to maintain the obligations
upon third parties of such a convention, when extorted by external
compulsion. Either action may be resisted, but means not permissible
in the one case may be justified in the other. In the European
situation the subjected states, by reason of their subjection,
disappeared as factors in diplomatic consideration. There remained
only their master Napoleon, with his momentary lieutenant the Czar,
and opposed to them Great Britain. "It is obvious," said the French
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Champagny, to Armstrong, "that his
Majesty _cannot permit_ to his allies a commerce which he denies to
himself. This would be at once to defeat his system and oppress his
subjects."[206] A few days later he wrote formally, "His Majesty
considered himself bound to _order_ reprisals on American vessels
_not only in his territory, but likewise in the countries which are
under his influence_,--Holland, Spain, Italy, Naples."[207] The
Emperor by strength of arms oppressed to their grievous injury those
who could not escape him; what should be the course of those whom he
could not reach, to whom was left the choice between actual resistance
and virtual co-operation? The two really independent states were Great
Britain and the United States. In the universal convulsion of
civilization, the case of the several nations recalls the law of
Solon, that in civil tumults the man who took neither side should be

The United States chose neutrality, and expected that it would be
permitted her. She chose to overlook the interposition of Napoleon,
and to regard the exclusion laws, forced by him upon other states, as
instances of municipal regulation, incontestable when freely
exercised. Not only would she not go behind the superficial form, but
on technical grounds of international law she denied the right of
another to do so. Great Britain had no choice. She was compelled to
resistance; the question was as to methods. Direct military action was
impossible. The weapon used against her was commercial prohibition,
which meant eventual ruin, unless adequately parried by her own
action. From Europe no help was to be expected. If the United States
also decided so far to support Napoleon as to prosecute her trade
subject to his measures, accepting as legal regulations extorted by
him from other European countries, the trade of Europe would be
transferred from Great Britain to America, and the revenues of France
would expand in every way, while those of Great Britain shrank,--a
result militarily fatal. In this the British Government would not
acquiesce. It chose instead war with the United States, under the
forms of peace.

That the tendency of the course pursued by the United States was to
destroy British commerce, and that this tendency was successfully
counteracted by the means framed by the British Government,--the
Orders in Council,--admits of little doubt. When the American policy
had worked out to its logical conclusion, in open trade with France,
and complete interdict of importation from Great Britain, Joel Barlow,
American Minister to France in 1811-12, and an intimate of Jefferson
and Madison, wrote thus to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs: "In
adopting the late arrangements with France the United States could not
contemplate the deprivation of revenue. They really expected to draw
from this country and from the rest of continental Europe the same
species of manufactures, and to as great an amount as they were
accustomed to do from England. They calculated with the more
confidence on such a result as they saw how intimately it was combined
with the great and essential interests of the Imperial Government.
They perceived that _it would promote in an unexpected degree the
Continental system_, which the Emperor has so much at heart.... The
Emperor now commands nearly all the ports of continental Europe. The
whole interior of the Continent must be supplied with American
products. These must pass through French territory, French commercial
houses, canals, and wagons. They must pay" toll to France in various
ways, "and thus render these territories as tributary to France as if
they were part of her own dominions."[208] But Napoleon replied that
his system, as it stood, had greatly crippled British commerce, and
that if he should admit American shipping freely to the Continent,
trade could not be carried on, because the English under the Orders in
Council would take it all, going or coming.[209]

"The peril of the moment is truly supposed to be great beyond all
former example," wrote Pinkney, now American minister in London, when
communicating to his Government the further Orders in Council adopted
by Great Britain, in response to the attempted "union of all the
commercial states" against her. As defined by Canning to Pinkney,[210]
"the principle upon which the whole of this measure has been framed is
that of refusing to the enemy those advantages of commerce which he
has forbidden to this country. The simplest method of enforcing this
system of retaliation would have been to follow the example of the
enemy, by prohibiting altogether all commercial intercourse between
him and other states." America then would not be allowed to trade with
the countries under his Decrees. It was considered, however, more
indulgent to neutrals--to the second parties in commercial intercourse
with the enemy--to allow this intercourse subject to duties in transit
to be paid in Great Britain. This would raise the cost to the
continental consumer and pay revenue to Great Britain.

The Orders in Council of November 11, 1807, therefore forbade all
entrance to ports of the countries which had embraced the Continental
system. It was not pretended that they would be blockaded effectively.
"All ports from which the British flag is excluded shall from
henceforth be subject to the same restrictions, in point of trade and
navigation, with the exceptions hereinafter mentioned, _as if the same
were actually blockaded_ in the most strict and rigorous manner by his
Majesty's naval forces." The exception was merely that a vessel
calling first at a British port would be allowed to proceed to one of
those prohibited, after paying certain duties upon her cargo and
obtaining a fresh clearance. This measure was instituted by the
Executive, in pursuance of the custom of regulating trade with
America by Orders in Council, prevalent since 1783; but it received
legislative sanction by an Act of Parliament, March 28, 1808, which
fixed the duties to be paid on the foreign goods thus passing through
British custom-houses. Cotton, for instance, was to pay nine pence a
pound, an amount intended to be prohibitory; tobacco, three halfpence.
These were the two leading exports of United States domestic produce.
In the United States this Act of Parliament was resented more
violently, if possible, than the Order in Council itself. In the
colonial period there had been less jealousy of the royal authority
than of that of Parliament, and the feeling reappears in the
discussion of the present measures. "This," said a Virginia
senator,[211] "is the Act regulating our commerce, of which I
complain. An export duty, which could not be laid in Charleston
because forbidden by our Constitution, is laid in London, or in
British ports." It was literally, and in no metaphorical sense, the
reimposition of colonial regulation, to increase the revenues of Great
Britain by reconstituting her the _entrepôt_ of commerce between
America and Europe. "The Orders in Council," wrote John Quincy Adams
in a public letter, "if submitted to, would have degraded us to the
condition of colonists."[212]

This just appreciation preponderated over other feelings throughout
the middle and southern states. Adams, a senator from Massachusetts,
had separated himself in action and opinion from the mass of the
people in New England, where, although the Orders were condemned,
hatred of Napoleon and his methods overbore the sense of injury
received from Great Britain. The indignation of the supporters of the
Administration was intensified by the apparent purpose of the British
Government to keep back information of the measure. Rose had sailed
the day after its adoption, Monroe two days later, but neither
brought any official intimation of its issuance, although that was
announced in the papers of the day. "The Orders in Council," wrote
Adams, "were not merely without official authenticity. Rumors had been
for several weeks in circulation, derived from English prints and from
private correspondence, that such Orders were to issue,[213] and no
inconsiderable pains were taken to discredit the facts. Suspicions
were lulled by declarations equivalent as nearly as possible to
positive denial, and these opiates were continued for weeks after the
embargo was laid, until Mr. Erskine received orders to make official
communication of the Orders themselves, in proper form, to our
Government."[214] This remissness, culpable as it certainly was in a
matter of such importance, was freely attributed to the most sinister
motives. "These Orders in Council were designedly concealed from Mr.
Rose, although they had long been deliberated upon, and almost
matured, before he left London. They were the besom which was intended
to sweep, and would have swept, our commerce from the ocean. Great
Britain in the most insidious manner had issued orders for the entire
destruction of our commerce."[215]

The wrath was becoming, but in this particular the inference was
exaggerated. The Orders, modelled on the general plan of blockades,
provided for the warning of a vessel which had sailed before receiving
notification; and not till after a first notice by a British cruiser
was she liable to capture. Mention of such cases occurs in the
journals of the day.[216] Some captains persisted, and, if successful
in reaching a port under Napoleon's control, found themselves arrested
under a new Decree,--that of Milan,--for having submitted to a visit
they could not resist. Such were sequestered, subject to the decision
of the United States to take active measures against Great Britain.
"Arrived at New York, March 23, [1808], ship 'Eliza,' Captain Skiddy,
29 days from Bordeaux. All American vessels in France which had been
boarded by British cruisers were under seizure. The opinion was, they
would so remain till it was known whether the United States had
adjusted its difficulties with Great Britain, in which case they would
be immediately condemned. A letter from the Minister of Marine was
published that the Decree of Milan must be executed severely,
strictly, and literally."[217] Independent of a perpetual need to
raise money, by methods more consonant to the Middle Ages than to the
current period, Napoleon thus secured hostages for the action of the
United States in its present dilemma.

The Orders in Council of November 11, having been announced in English
papers of the 10th, 11th, and 12th, appeared in the Washington
"National Intelligencer" of December 18.[218] The general facts were
therefore known to the Executive and to the Legislature; and, though
not officially adduced, could not but affect consideration, when the
President, on December 18, 1807, sent a message to Congress
recommending "an inhibition of the departure of our vessels from the
ports of the United States." With his customary exaggerated expression
of attendance upon instructions from Congress, he made no further
definition of wishes which were completely understood by the party
leaders. "The wisdom of Congress will also see the necessity of making
every preparation for whatever events may grow out of the present
crisis." Accompanying the message, as documents justificatory of the
action to be taken, were four official papers. One was the formal
communication to the French Council of Prizes of Napoleon's decision
that goods of English origin were lawful prize on board neutral
vessels; the second was the British proclamation directing the
impressment of British seamen found on board neutral ships. These two
were made public. Secrecy was imposed concerning the others, which
were a letter of September 24, from Armstrong to the French Minister
of Exterior Relations, and the reply, dated October 7. In this the
minister, M. Champagny, affirmed the Emperor's decision, and added a
sentence which, while susceptible of double meaning, certainly
covertly suggested that the United States should join in supporting
the Berlin Decree. "The decree of blockade has now been issued eleven
months. The principal Powers of Europe, far from protesting against
its provisions, have adopted them. They have perceived that its
execution must be complete to render it more effectual, and it has
seemed easy to reconcile these measures with the observance of
treaties, especially at a time when the infractions by England of the
rights of _all maritime_ Powers render their interests common, and
tend to _unite them in support of the same cause_."[219] This
doubtless might be construed as applicable only to the European
Powers; but as a foremost contention of Madison and Armstrong had been
that the Berlin Decree contravened the treaty between France and the
United States, the sentence lent itself readily to the interpretation,
placed upon it by the Federalists, that the United States was invited
to enforce in her own waters the continental system of exclusion, and
so to help bring England to reason.

This the United States immediately proceeded to do. Though the motive
differed somewhat, the action was precisely that suggested. On the
same day that Jefferson's message was received, the Senate passed an
Embargo Bill. This was sent at once to the House, returned with
amendments, amendments concurred in, and bill passed and approved
December 22. This rapidity of action--Sunday intervened--shows a
purpose already decided in general principle; while the enactment of
three supplementary measures, before the adjournment of Congress in
April, indicates a precipitancy incompatible with proper weighing of
details, and an avoidance of discussion, commendable only on the
ground that no otherwise than by the promptest interception could
American ships or merchandise be successfully jailed in port. The bill
provided for the instant stoppage of all vessels in the ports of the
United States, whether cleared or not cleared, if bound to any foreign
port. Exception was made only in favor of foreign ships, which of
course could not be held. They might depart with cargo already on
board, or in ballast. Vessels cleared coastwise were to be deterred
from turning foreign by bonds exacted in double the value of ship and
cargo. American export and foreign navigation were thus completely
stopped; and as the Non-Importation Act at last went into operation on
December 14,[220] there was practical exclusion of all British
vessels, for none could be expected to enter a port where she could
neither land her cargo nor depart.

In communicating the embargo to Pinkney, for the information of the
British Government,[221] Madison was careful to explain, as he had to
the British minister at Washington, that it was a measure of
precaution only; not to be considered as hostile in character. This
was scarcely candid; coercion of Great Britain, to compel the
withdrawal of her various maritime measures objectionable to the
United States, was at least a silent partner in the scheme, as
formulated to the consciousness of Jefferson and his followers.[222]
The motive transpired, as such motives necessarily do; but, even had
it not, the operation of the Act, under the conditions of the European
war, was so plainly partial between the two belligerents, as to
amount virtually to co-operation with Napoleon by the preponderance of
injury done to Great Britain. It deprived her of cotton for raw
material; of tobacco, which, imported in payment for British
manufactures, formed a large element in her commerce with the
Continent; of wheat and flour, which to some extent contributed to the
support of her people, though in a much less degree than many
supposed. It closed to her the American market at the moment that
Napoleon and Alexander were actively closing the European; and it shut
off from the West Indies American supplies known to be of the greatest
importance, and fondly, but mistakenly, believed to be indispensable.

All this was well enough, if national policy required. Great Britain
then was scarcely in a position to object seriously to retaliation by
a nation thinking itself injured; but to define such a measure as not
hostile was an insult to her common-sense. It was certainly hostile in
nature, it was believed to be hostile in motive, and it intensified
feelings already none too friendly. In France, although included in
the embargo, and although her action was one of the reasons alleged
for its institution, Napoleon expressed approval. It was injurious to
England, and added little to the pressure upon France exerted by the
Orders in Council through the British control of the ocean. Senator
Smith of Maryland, a large shipping merchant, bore testimony to this.
"It has been truly said by an eminent merchant of Salem, that not more
than one vessel in eight that sailed for Europe within a short time
before the embargo reached its destination. My own experience has
taught me the truth of this; and as further proof I have in my hand a
list of fifteen vessels which sailed for Europe between September 1
and December 23, 1807. Three arrived; two were captured by French and
Spaniards; one was seized in Hamburg; and nine carried into England.
But for the embargo, ships that would have sailed would have fared as
ill, or worse. Not one in twenty would have arrived." Granting the
truth of this anticipation, Great Britain might have claimed that, so
far as evident danger was concerned, her blockades over long
coast-lines were effective.

The question speedily arose,--If the object of embargo be precaution
only, to save our vessels from condemnation under the sweeping edicts
of France and Great Britain, and seamen from impressment on American
decks, why object to exporting native produce in foreign bottoms, and
to commerce across the Canada frontier? If, by keeping our vessels at
home, we are to lose the profits upon sixty million dollars' worth of
colonial produce which they have heretofore been carrying, with
advantage to the national revenue, why also forbid the export of the
forty to fifty million dollars' worth of domestic produce which
foreign ship-owners would gladly take and safely carry? for such
foreigners would be chiefly British, and would sail under British
convoy, subject to small proportionate risk.[223] Why, also, to save
seamen from impressment, deprive them of their living, and force them
in search of occupation to fly our ports to British, where lower wages
and more exposure to the pressgang await them? On the ground of
precaution, there was no reply to these questions; unless, perhaps,
that with open export of domestic produce the popular suffering would
be too unequally distributed, falling almost wholly on New England
shipping industries. Logically, however, if the precaution were
necessary, the suffering must be accepted; its incidence was a detail
only. The embargo was distinctly a hostile measure; and more and more,
as people talked, in and out of Congress, was admitted to be simply
an alternative for open war.

As such it failed. It entailed most of the miseries of war, without
any of its compensations. It could not arouse the popular enthusiasm
which elevates, nor command the popular support that strengthens.
Hated and despised, it bred elusion, sneaking and demoralizing, and so
debased public sentiment with reference to national objects, and
individual self-sacrifice to national ends, that the conduct of the
many who now evaded it was reproduced, during the War of 1812, in
dealings with the enemy which even now may make an American's head
hang for shame. Born of the Jeffersonian horror of war, its evil
communication corrupted morals among those whose standards were
conventional only; for public opinion failed to condemn breaches of
embargo, and by a natural declension equally failed soon after to
condemn aid to the enemy in an unpopular war. Was it wonderful that an
Administration which bade the seamen and the ship-owners of the day to
starve, that a foreign state might be injured, and at the same time
refused to build national ships to protect them, fell into contempt?
that men, so far as they might, simply refused to obey, and wholly
departed from respect? "I have believed, and still do believe," wrote
Mr. Adams, "that our internal resources are competent to establish and
maintain a naval force, if not fully adequate to the protection and
defence of our commerce, at least sufficient to induce a retreat from
these hostilities, and to deter from the renewal of them by either of
the harrying parties;" in short, to compel peace, the first object of
military preparation. "I believed that a system to that effect might
be formed, ultimately far more economical, and certainly more
energetic than a three years' embargo. I did submit such a proposition
to the Senate, and similar attempts had been made in the House of
Representatives, but equally discountenanced."[224] This was
precisely the effect of Jefferson's teaching, which then dominated his
party, and controlled both houses. At this critical moment he wrote,
"Believing, myself, that gunboats are the only water defence which can
be useful to us, and protect us from the ruinous folly of a navy, I am
pleased with everything which promises to improve them."[225]

Not thus was a nation to be united, nor foreign governments impressed.
The panacea recommended was to abandon the sea; to yield practical
submission to the Orders in Council, which forbade American ships to
visit the Continent, and to the Decrees of Napoleon, which forbade
them entrance to any dominion of Great Britain. By a curious mental
process this was actually believed to be resistance. The American
nation was to take as its model the farmer who lives on his own
produce, sternly independent of his neighbor; whose sons delved, and
wife span, all that the family needed. This programme, half sentiment,
half philosophy, and not at all practical, or practicable, was the
groundwork of Jefferson's thought. To it co-operated a dislike
approaching detestation for the carrying trade; the very opposite,
certainly, of the other ideal. American shipping was then handling
sixty million dollars' worth of foreign produce, and rolling up the
wealth which for some reason follows the trader more largely than the
agriculturist, who observed with ill-concealed envy. "I trust," wrote
Jefferson, "that the good sense of our country will see that its
greatest prosperity depends on a due balance between agriculture,
manufactures, and commerce, and not on this protuberant navigation,
which has kept us in hot water from the commencement of our
government. This drawback system enriches a few individuals, but
lessens the stock of native productions, by withdrawing all the hands
[seamen] thus employed. It is essentially necessary for us to have
shipping and seamen enough to carry our surplus products to market,
but beyond that I do not think we are bound to give it encouragement
by drawbacks or other premiums." This meant that it was unjust to the
rest of the community to allow the merchant to land his cargo, and
send it abroad, without paying as much duty as if actually consumed in
the country. "This exuberant commerce brings us into collision with
other Powers in every sea, and will force us into every war with
European Powers." "It is now engaging us in war."[226]

Whether for merchant ships or navies the sea was odious to Jefferson's
conception of things. As a convenient medium for sending to market
surplus cotton and tobacco, it might be tolerated; but for that ample
use of it which had made the greatness of Holland and England, he had
only aversion. This prepossession characterized the whole body of men,
who willingly stripped the seaman and his employers of all their
living, after refusing to provide them with an armed protection to
which the resources of the state were equal. Up to the outbreak of the
war not a ship was added to the navy. With this feeling, Great
Britain, whose very being was maritime, not unnaturally became the
object of a dislike so profound as unconsciously to affect action.
Napoleon decreed, and embargoed, and sequestered, with little effect
upon national sentiment outside of New England. "Certainly all the
difficulties and the troubles of the Government during our time
proceeded from England," wrote Jefferson soon after quitting
office,[227] to Dearborn, his Secretary of War. "At least all others
were trifling in comparison." Yet not to speak of the Berlin Decree,
by which ships were captured for the mere offence of sailing for
England,[228] Bonaparte, by the Bayonne Decree, April 17, 1808, nearly
a year before Jefferson left office, pronounced the confiscation of
all American vessels entering ports under his control, on the ground
that under the existing embargo they could not lawfully have left
their own country; a matter which was none of his business. Within a
year were condemned one hundred and thirty-four ships and cargoes,
worth $10,000,000.[229]

That Jefferson consciously leaned to France from any regard to
Napoleon is incredible; the character and procedures of the French
Emperor were repugnant to his deepest convictions; but that there was
a still stronger bias against the English form of government, and the
pursuit of the sea for which England especially stood, is equally
clear. Opposition to England was to him a kind of mission. His best
wish for her had been that she might be republicanized by a successful
French invasion.[230] "I came into office," he wrote to a political
disciple, "under circumstances calculated to generate peculiar
acrimony. I found all the offices in the possession of a political
sect, who wished to transform it ultimately into the shape of their
darling model, the English government; and in the meantime to
familiarize the public mind to the change, by administering it on
English principles, and in English forms. The elective interposition
of the people had blown all their designs, and they found themselves
and their fortresses of power and profit put in a moment in the hand
of other trustees."[231]

These words, written in the third of the fifteen embargo months,
reveal an acrimony not wholly one-sided. It was perceived by the
parties hardest hit by this essentially Jeffersonian scheme; by the
people of New England and of Great Britain. In the old country it
intensified bitterness. In the following summer, at a dinner given to
representatives of the Spanish revolt against Napoleon, the toast to
the President of the United States was received with hisses,[232] "and
the marks of disapprobation continued till a new subject drew off the
attention of the company." The embargo was not so much a definite
cause of complaint, for at worst it was merely a retaliatory measure
like the Orders in Council. Enmity was recognized, alike in the
council boards and in the social gatherings of the two peoples; the
spirit that leads to war was aroused. Nor could this hostile
demonstration proceed from sympathy with the Spanish insurgents; for,
except so far as might be inferred from the previous general course of
the American Administration, there was no reason to believe that they
would regard unfavorably the Spanish struggle for liberty. Yet they
soon did, and could not but do so.

It is a coincidence too singular to go unnoticed, that the first
strong measure of the American Government against Great
Britain--Embargo--was followed by Napoleon's reverses in Spain, which,
by opening much of that country and of her colonies to trade, at once
in large measure relieved Great Britain from the pressure of the
Continental system and the embargo; while the second, the last resort
of nations, War, was declared shortly before the great Russian
catastrophe, which, by rapidly contracting the sphere of the Emperor's
control, both widened the area of British commerce and deprived the
United States of a diversion of British effort, upon which calculation
had rightly been based. It was impossible for the American Government
not to wish well to Napoleon, when for it so much depended upon his
success; and to wish him well was of course to wish ill to his
opponents, even if fighting for freedom.

Congress adjourned April 25, having completed embargo legislation, as
far as could then be seen necessary. On May 2 occurred the rising in
Madrid, consequent upon Napoleon's removal of the Spanish Royal
Family; and on July 21 followed the surrender of Dupont's corps at
Baylen. Already, on July 4, the British Government had stopped all
hostilities against Spain, and withdrawn the blockade of all Spanish
ports, except such as might still be in French control. On August 30,
by the Convention of Cintra, Portugal was evacuated by the French, and
from that time forward the Peninsula kingdoms, though scourged by war,
were in alliance with Great Britain; their ports and those of their
colonies open to her trade.

This of itself was a severe blow to the embargo, which for coercive
success depended upon the co-operation of the Continental system. It
was further thwarted and weakened by extensive popular repudiation in
the United States. The political conviction of the expediency, or
probable efficacy, of the measure was largely sectional; and it is no
serious imputation upon the honesty of its supporters to say that
they mustered most strongly where interests were least immediately
affected. Tobacco and cotton suffered less in keeping than flour and
salt fish; and the deterioration of these was by no means so instant
as the stoppage of a ship's sailing or loading. The farmer ideal is
realizable on a farm; but it was not so for the men whose sole
occupation was transporting that which the agriculturist did not need
to markets now closed by law. Wherever employment depended upon
commerce, distress was immediate. The seamen, improvident by habit,
first felt the blow. "I cannot conceive," said Representative
[afterwards Justice] Story, "why gentlemen should wish to paralyze the
strength of the nation by keeping back our naval force, and
particularly now, when many of our native seamen (and I am sorry to
say from my own knowledge I speak it) are starving in our ports."[233]
The Commandant of the New York Navy Yard undertook to employ, for
rations only, not wages, three hundred of those adrift in the streets;
the corporation of the city undertaking to pay for the food
issued.[234] They moved off, as they could get opportunity, towards
the British Provinces; and thus many got into the British service, by
enlistment or impressment. "Had your frigate arrived here instead of
the Chesapeake," wrote the British Consul General at New York, as
early as February 15, 1808, "I have no doubt two or three hundred able
British seamen would have entered on board her for his Majesty's
service; and even now, was your station removed to this city, I feel
confident, _provided the embargo continues_, you would more than
complete your complement."[235] Six months later, "Is it not notorious
that not a seaport in the United States can produce seamen enough to
man three merchant ships?"[236] In moving the estimates for one
hundred and thirty thousand seamen a year later (February, 1809), the
Secretary of the Admiralty observed that Parliament would learn with
satisfaction that the number of seamen now serving in the navy
covered, if it did not exceed, the number here voted.[237] It had not
been so once. Sir William Parker, an active frigate captain during ten
years of this period, wrote in 1805, "I dread the discharge of our
crew; for I do not think the miserable wretches with which the ships
lately fitted out were manned are equal to fight their ships in the
manner they are expected to do."[238] The high wages, which the
profits of the American merchant service enabled it to pay, outbade
all competition by the British navy. "Dollars for shillings," as the
expression ran. The embargo stopped all this, and equivalent
conditions did not return before the war. The American Minister to
France in 1811 wrote: "We complain with justice of the English
practice of pressing our seamen into their service. But the fact is,
and there is no harm in saying it, there are at present more American
seamen who seek that service than are forced into it."[239]

After the seamen followed the associated employments; those whose
daily labor was expended in occupations connected with transportation,
or who produced objects which men could not eat, or with which they
could dispense. Before the end of the year testimony came from every
quarter of the increase of suffering among the deserving poor; and not
they only, but those somewhat above them as gainers of a comfortable
living. They were for the most part helpless, except as helped by
their richer neighbors. Work for them there was not, and they could
not rebel. Not so with the seafarers, or the dwellers upon the
frontiers. On the great scale, of course, a sure enforcement of the
embargo was possible; the bulk of the shipping, especially the bigger,
was corralled and idle. In the port of New York, February 17, 1808,
lay 161 ships, 121 brigs, and 98 smaller sea-going vessels; in all 380
unoccupied, of which only 11 were foreign. In the much smaller port of
Savannah, at this early period there were 50. In Philadelphia, a year
later, 293, mostly of large tonnage for the period. "What is that huge
forest of dry trees that spreads itself before the town?" asked a
Boston journal. "You behold the masts of ships thrown out of
employment by the embargo."[240] "Our dismantled, ark-roofed vessels
are indeed decaying in safety at our wharves, forming a suitable
monument to the memory of our departed commerce. But where are your
seamen? Gone, sir! Driven into foreign exile in search of
subsistence."[241] Yet not all; for illicit employment, for evading
the Acts, enough remained to disconcert the Government, alike by their
numbers and the boldness of their movements.

"This Embargo law," wrote Jefferson to Gallatin, August 11, 1808, "is
certainly the most embarrassing we ever had to execute. I did not
expect a crop of so sudden and rank growth of fraud, and open
opposition by force, could have grown up within the United
States."[242] Apostle of pure democracy as he was, he had forgotten to
reckon with the people, and had mistaken the convictions of himself and
a coterie for national sentiment. From all parts of the country men
began silently and covertly to undermine the working of the system.
Passamaquoddy Bay on the borders of New Brunswick, and St. Mary's on
the confines of Florida, remote from ordinary commerce, became
suddenly crowded with vessels.[243] Coasters, not from recalcitrant New
England only, but from the Chesapeake and Southern waters, found it
impossible to reach their ports of destination. Furious gales of wind
drove them from their course; spars smitten with decay went overboard;
butts of planking started, causing dangerous leaks. Safety could be
found only by bearing up for some friendly foreign port, in Nova Scotia
or the West Indies, where cargoes of flour and fish had to be sold for
needed repairs, to enable the homeward voyage to be made. Not
infrequently the vessel's name had been washed off the stern by the
violence of the waves, and the captain could remember neither it nor
his own. The New York and Vermont frontiers became the scene of
widespread illegal trade, the shameful effects of which upon the
patriotism of the inhabitants were conspicuous in the following war. A
gentleman returning from Canada in January, 1809, reported that he had
counted seven hundred sleighs, going and returning between Montreal and
Vermont.[244] This on one line only. A letter received in New York
stated that, during the embargo year, 1808, thirty thousand barrels of
potash had been brought into Quebec.[245] "While our gunboats and
cutters are watching the harbors and sounds of the Atlantic," said a
senator from his place, "a strange inversion of business ensues, and by
a retrograde motion of all the interior machinery of the country,
potash and lumber are launched upon the lakes, and Ontario and
Champlain feel the bustle of illicit traffic.... Violators of the laws
are making fortunes, while the conscientious observers of them are
suffering sad privations."[246] Not the conscientious only, but the
unlucky. Unlike New York, North Carolina had not a friendly foreign
boundary nigh to her naval stores.

Under these circumstances the blow glanced from the British dominions.
At the first announcement of the embargo, prices of provisions and
lumber rose heavily in the West Indies; but reaction set in, as the
leaks in the dam became manifest and copious. The British Government
fostered the rebellious evasions of American citizens by a
proclamation, issued April 11, directing commanders of cruisers not to
interrupt any neutral vessel laden with provisions or lumber, going to
the West Indies; no matter to whom the property belonged, nor whether
the vessel had any clearance, or papers of any kind. A principal
method of eluding the embargo, Gallatin informed Jefferson, was by
loading secretly and going off without clearing. "Evasions are chiefly
effected by vessels going coastwise."[247] The two methods were not
incompatible. Besides the sea-going vessels already mentioned as lying
in New York alone, there were there over four hundred coasters. It was
impossible to watch so many. The ridiculous gunboats, identified with
this Administration, derisively nicknamed "Jeffs"[248] by the
unbelieving, were called into service to arrest the evil; but neither
their numbers nor their qualities fitted them to cope with the
ubiquity and speed of their nimble opponents. "The larger part of our
gunboats," wrote Commodore Shaw[249] from New Orleans, "are well known
to be dull sailers." "For enforcing the embargo," said Secretary
Gallatin, "gunboats are better calculated as a stationary force, and
for the purpose of stopping vessels in certain places, than for
pursuit."[250] A double bond was a mockery, when in West Indian ports
the cargo was worth from four to eight times what it was at the place
of loading. These were the palmier days of the embargo breakers; the
ease and frequency with which they escaped soon brought prices down.
Randolph, in the House, asserted that in the first four months of
embargo one hundred thousand barrels of flour had been shipped from
Baltimore alone; and the West India planters, besides opening new
sources of supply, devoted part of their ground to raising food. They
thus turned farmer, after the Jefferson ideal, supporting themselves
off their own grounds; an economical error, for sugar was their better
crop, but unavoidable in the circumstances. With all this, the
difficulty in the way of exportation so cheapened articles in the
United States as to maintain a considerable disproportion in prices
there and abroad, which kept alive the spirit of speculation, and
maintained the opportunity of large profits,[251] at the same time
that it distressed the American grower.

Upon the whole, after making allowance for the boasts which succeeded
the first fright in the West Indies, the indications seem to be that
they escaped much better than had been expected, either by themselves
or by the American Government. Just before adjourning, Congress had
passed a supplementary measure, which, besides drawing restrictions
tighter, authorized the President to license vessels to go abroad in
ballast, in order to bring home property belonging to American
citizens. These dispersed in various directions, and in very large
numbers.[252] Many doubtless remained away; but those which returned
brought constant confirmation of the numerous American shipping in
the various ports of the West Indies, and the general abundance of
American produce. A letter from Havana, September 12, said: "We have
nearly one hundred American vessels in port. Three weeks ago there
were but four or five. If the property, for which these vessels were
ostensibly despatched, had been really here, why have they been so
long delayed? The truth is, the property is not here. A host of people
have been let loose, who could not possibly have had any other motive
than procuring freight and passengers from merchants of this country,
or from the French, who are supposed to be going off with their
property [in consequence of the Spanish outbreak]. The vast number of
evasions and smugglers which the embargo has created is surprising.
For some days after the last influx of American vessels, the quays and
custom-house were every morning covered with all kinds of provisions,
which had been landed during the preceding night."[253]

To Quebec and Halifax the embargo was a positive boon, from the
diversion upon them of smuggling enterprise, by the lakes and by land,
or by coasters too small to make the direct voyage to the West Indies.
In consequence of the embargo, these towns became an _entrepôt_ of
commerce, such as the Orders in Council were designed to make the
British Islands. There was, of course, a return trade, through them,
of British manufactures smuggled into the United States. These imports
seem to have exceeded the exports by the same route. A New Bedford
town meeting, in August, affirmed that gold was already at a premium,
from the facility with which it was transported through the country,
and across the frontier, in payment of purchases.[254] At the end of
the summer one hundred and fifty vessels were despatched from Quebec
with full cargoes, and it may be believed they had not arrived empty.
"From a Canada price current now before us, it will be seen that since
the embargo was laid the single port of Quebec has done more foreign
business than the whole United States. In less than eleven months
there cleared thence three hundred and thirty-four vessels."[255] An
American merchant visiting Halifax wrote home: "Our embargo is an
excellent thing for this place. Every inhabitant of Nova Scotia is
exceedingly desirous of its continuance, as it will be the making of
their fortunes."[256] Independent of the _entrepôt_ profit, the
British provinces themselves produced several of the articles which
figured largely among the exports of the middle and eastern states;
not to the extent imagined by Sheffield, sufficient to supply the West
Indies, but, in the artificial scarcity caused by the embargo, the
enhanced prices redounded directly to their advantage. Sir George
Prevost, governor of Nova Scotia, summed up the experience of the year
by saying that "the embargo has totally failed. New sources have been
resorted to with success to supply deficiencies produced by so sudden
an interruption of commerce, and the vast increase of export and
import of this province proves that the embargo is a measure well
adapted to promote the true interests of his Majesty's American

Upon the British Islands themselves the injury was more appreciable
and conspicuous. It was, moreover, in the direction expected by
Jefferson and his supporters. The supply of cotton nearly ceased. Mr.
Baring, March 6, 1809, said in the House of Commons that raw material
had become so scarce and so high, that in many places it could not be
procured. "In Manchester during the greatest part of the past year,
only nine cotton mills were in full employment; about thirty-one at
half work, and forty-four without any at all."[258] Flaxseed,
essential to the Irish linen manufactures, and of which three fourths
came from America, had risen from £2-½ to £23 the quarter.[259] The
exports for the year 1808 had fallen fifteen per cent; the imports the
same amount, involving a total diminution in trade of £14,000,000. An
increase of distress was manifested in the poor rates. In Manchester
they had risen from £24,000 to £49,000. On the other hand, the harvest
for the year, contrary to first anticipation, had been very good; and,
in part compensation for intercourse with the United States, there was
the opening of Spain, Portugal, and their extensive colonies, the
effect of which was scarcely yet fully felt.

There was, besides, the relief of American competition in the carrying
trade. This was a singularly noteworthy effect of the embargo; for
this industry was particularly adverse to United States navigation,
and particularly benefited by the locking up of American shipping. On
April 28, 1808, there was not in Liverpool a vessel from Boston or New
York.[260] The year before, four hundred and eighty-nine had entered,
paying a tonnage duty of £36,960.[261] In Bristol at the same time
there were only ten Americans. In consequence of the loss of so much
tonnage, "those who have anything to do with vessels for freight or
charter are absolutely insolent in their demands. For a ship of 330
tons from this to St. Petersburg and back £3,300 have been paid;
£2,000 for a ship of 199 tons to Lisbon and back."[262] At the end of
August, in Liverpool, the value of British shipping had increased
rapidly, and vessels which had long been laid up found profitable
employment at enormous freights.[263]

Thus, while the effect of the embargo doubtless was to raise prices of
American goods in England, it stopped American competition with the
British carrying trade, especially in West India produce. This
occurred also at the time when the revolt of Spain opened to British
navigation the colonies from which Americans hitherto had been the
chief carriers. The same event had further relieved British shipping
by the almost total destruction of French privateering, thenceforth
banished from its former ports of support in the Caribbean. From all
these causes, the appreciation quoted from a London letter of
September 5 seems probably accurate. "The continuance of the embargo
is not as yet felt in any degree adequate to make a deep impression on
the public mind.... Except with those directly interested [merchants
in the American trade], the dispute with the United States seems
almost forgotten, or remembered only to draw forth ironical gratitude,
that the kind embargo leaves the golden harvest to be reaped by
British enterprise alone."[264]

Upon the whole, through silent popular resistance, and the concurrence
of the Spanish revolution, the United States by cutting its own throat
underwent more distress than it inflicted upon the enemy. Besides the
widespread individual suffering,[265] already mentioned, the national
revenue, dependent almost wholly on customs, shrank with the imports.
Despite the relief afforded by cargoes bound home when the embargo
passed, and the permits issued to bring in American property abroad,
the income from this source sank from over $16,000,000 to
$8,400,000.[266] "However dissimilar in some respects," wrote Gallatin
in a public report, "it is not believed that in their effect upon
national wealth and public revenue war and embargo would be materially
different. In case of war, some part of that revenue will remain; but
if embargo and suspension of commerce continue, that which arises from
commerce will entirely disappear."[267] Jefferson nevertheless clung
to the system, even to the end of his life, with a conviction that
defied demonstration. The fundamental error of conception, of course,
was in considering embargo an efficient alternative for war. The
difference between the two measures, regarded coercively, was that
embargo inflicted upon his own people all the loss that war could, yet
spared the opponent that which war might do to him. For the United
States, war would have meant, and when it came did mean, embargo, and
little more. To Great Britain it would have meant all that the
American embargo could do, plus the additional effort, expense, and
actual loss, attendant upon the increased exposure of her maritime
commerce, and its protection against active and numerous foes,
singularly well fitted for annoyance by their qualities and situation.
War and embargo, combined, with Napoleon in the plenitude of his
power, as he was in 1808, would sorely have tried the enemy; even when
it came, amid the Emperor's falling fortunes, the strain was severe.
But Jefferson's lack of appreciation for maritime matters, his dislike
to the navy, and the weakness to which he had systematically reduced
it, prevented his realizing the advantages of war over embargo, as a
measure of coercion. To this contributed also his conviction of the
exposure of Canada to offensive operations, which was just, though
fatally vitiated by an unfounded confidence in untrained troops, or
militia summoned from their farms. Neither was there among his
advisers any to correct his views; rather they had imbibed their own
from him, and their utterances in debate betray radical
misapprehension of military considerations.

Among the incidents attendant upon the embargo was the continuance
abroad of a number of American vessels, which were there at the
passage of the Act. They remained, willing exiles, to share the
constant employment and large freights which the sudden withdrawal of
their compatriots had opened to British navigation. They were
doubtless joined by many of those which received permission to sail in
quest of American property. One flagrant instance of such abuse of
privilege turned up at Leghorn, with a load of tropical produce;[268]
and the comments above quoted from an Havana letter doubtless depended
upon that current acquaintance with facts which men in the midst of
affairs pick up. It was against this class of traders specifically
that Napoleon launched the Bayonne Decree, April 17, 1808. Being
abroad contrary to the law of the United States, he argued, was a
clear indication that they were not American, but British in
disguise. This they were not; but they were carrying on trade under
the Orders in Council, and often under British convoy.[269] The fact
was noteworthy, as bearing upon the contention of the United States
Government soon after, that the Non-Intercourse Law was adequate
security for the action of American merchant vessels; a grotesque
absurdity, in view of the embargo experiences. That it is not
consonant with national self-esteem to accept foreign assistance to
carry out national laws is undeniable; but it is a step further to
expect another nation to accept, as assured, the efficiency of an
authority notoriously and continually violated by its own subjects.

Under the general conditions named, the year 1808 wore on to its
close. Both the British Orders in Council and the Decrees of the
French Emperor continued in force and received execution;[270] but so
far as the United States was concerned their effect was much limited,
the embargo retaining at home the greater part of the nation's
shipping. The vessels which had remained abroad, and still more those
which escaped by violation of the law, or abuse of the permission to
sail unloaded to bring back American property, for the most part
purchased immunity by acquiescence in the British Orders. They
accepted British licenses, and British convoy also, where expedient.
It was stated in Congress that, of those which went to sea under
permission, comparatively few were interrupted by British
cruisers.[271] Napoleon's condemnations went on apace, and in the
matter of loss,--waiving questions of principle,--were at this moment
a more serious grievance than the British Orders. Nor could it be said
that the grounds upon which he based his action were less arbitrary or
unjust. The Orders in Council condemned a vessel for sailing for an
enemy's port, because constructively blockaded--a matter as to which
at least choice was free; the Milan Decree condemned because visited
by a British cruiser, to avoid which a merchant ship was powerless.
The American brig "Vengeance" sailed from Norfolk before the embargo
was laid, for Bilboa, then a port in alliance with France. On the
passage the British frigate "Iris" boarded her, and indorsed on her
papers that, in accordance with the orders of November 11, she must
not proceed. That night the "Vengeance" gave the cruiser the slip, and
pursued her course. She was captured off Bilboa by a French vessel,
sent in as a prize, and condemned because of the frigate's visit.[272]
This case is notable because of the pure application of a single
principle, not obscured by other incidental circumstances, as often
happens. The brig "George", equally bound to Bilboa, after visitation
by a British vessel had been to Falmouth, and there received a British
license to go to her destination. She was condemned for three
offenses: the visit, the entrance to Falmouth, and the license.[272a]
These cases were far from isolated, and quite as flagrant as anything
done by Great Britain; but, while not overlooked, nor unresented, by
the supporters of the embargo, there was not evident in the debates of
Congress any such depth of feeling as was aroused by the British
measures. As was said by Mr. Bayard, an Opposition Senator, "It may be
from the habit of enduring, but we do not feel an aggression from
France with the same quickness and sensibility that we do from

Throughout the year 1808, the embargo was maintained by the
Administration with as much vigor as was possible to the nature of the
administrator, profoundly interested in the success of a favorite
measure. Congress had supplemented the brief original Act by a
prohibition of all intercourse with foreign territories by land, as
well as by sea. This was levelled at the Florida and Canada frontiers.
Authority had been given also for the absolute detention of all
vessels bound coastwise, if with cargoes exciting suspicion of
intention to evade the laws. Part of the small navy was sent to
cruise off the coast, and the gunboats were distributed among the
maritime districts, to intercept and to enforce submission. Steps were
taken to build vessels on Lakes Ontario and Champlain; for, in the
undeveloped condition of the road systems, these sheets of water were
principal means of transportation, after snow left the ground. To the
embargo the Navy owed the brig "Oneida", the most formidable vessel on
Ontario when war came. All this restrictive service was of course
extremely unpopular with the inhabitants; or at least with that
active, assertive element, which is foremost in pushing local
advantages, and directs popular sentiment. Nor did feeling in all
cases refrain from action. April 19, the President had to issue a
proclamation against combinations to defy the law in the country about
Champlain. The collector at Passamaquoddy wrote that, with upwards of
a hundred vessels in port, he was powerless; and the mob threatened to
burn his house.[274] A Kennebec paper doubted whether civil society
could hang together much longer. There were few places in the region
where it was safe for civil officers to execute the laws.[274a] Troops
and revenue vessels were despatched to the chief centres of
disturbance; but, while occasional rencounters occurred, attended at
times with bloodshed, and some captures of smuggled goods were
effected, the weak arm of the Government was practically powerless
against universal connivance in the disaffected districts. Smuggling
still continued to a large extent, and was very profitable; while the
determination of the smugglers assumed the character commonly styled

Such conditions, with a falling revenue, and an Opposition strong in
sectional support, confronted the supporters of the Administration
when Congress again met in November. Confident that embargo was an
efficient coercive weapon, if relentlessly wielded, the President
wished more searching enactments, and power for more extensive and
vigorous enforcement. This Congress proceeded to grant. Additional
revenue cutters were authorized; and after long debate was passed an
Act for the Enforcement of the Embargo, approved January 9, 1809.[275]
The details of this law were derived from a letter[276] addressed to a
Committee of Congress by Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury, upon
whom the administration of the embargo system chiefly fell. The two
principal difficulties so far encountered were the evasions of vessels
bound coastwise, and departure without clearance. "The infractions
thus practised threaten to prostrate the law and the Government
itself." Even to take cargo on board should not be permitted, without
authorization from the collector of the district. "The great number of
vessels now laden and in a state of readiness to depart shows the
necessity of this provision."

It was therefore enacted that no vessel, coasting or registered,
should load, without first having obtained permission from the
custom-house, and given bond, in six times the value of the cargo,
that she would not depart without a clearance, nor after clearing go
to any foreign port, or transfer her lading to any other vessel. The
loading was to be under the inspection of revenue officers. Ships
already loaded, when notice of the Act was received, must unload or
give bonds. Further to insure compliance, vessels bound coastwise
must, within two months after sailing, deposit with the collector at
the port of clearance a certificate from the collector at the port of
destination, that they had arrived there. If going to New Orleans from
the Atlantic coast, four months were allowed for this formality.
Failing this, proof of total loss at sea would alone relieve the
bond. "Neither capture, distress, nor any other accident, shall be
pleaded or given in evidence." Collectors were empowered to take into
custody specie and goods, whether on vessels or land vehicles, when
there was reason to believe them intended for exportation; and
authority was given to employ the army and navy, and the militia, for
carrying out this and the other embargo legislation. A further
provision of thirty armed vessels, to stop trade, was made by this
Congress; which otherwise, like its predecessors and successors, was
perfectly faithful to the party tradition not to protect trade, or
seek peace, by providing a navy.

All this was sitting on the safety valve. However unflattering to
national self-esteem it might be to see national legislation
universally disregarded, the leakage of steam by evasion had made the
tension bearable. The Act also opened to a number of subaltern
executive officers, of uncertain discretion, an opportunity for
arbitrary and capricious action, to which the people of the United
States were unaccustomed. Already a justice of a circuit court had
decided in opposition to instructions issued by the President himself.
The new legislation was followed by an explosion of popular wrath and
street demonstrations. These were most marked in the Eastern states,
where the opposition party and the shipping interest were strongest.
Feeling was the more bitter, because the revolt of Spain, and the
deliverance of Portugal, had exempted those nations and their
extensive colonies from the operation of the British Orders in
Council, had paralyzed in many of their ports the edicts of Napoleon,
and so had extended widely the field safe for neutral commerce. It was
evident also that, while the peninsula everywhere was the scene of
war, it could not feed itself; nor could supplies for the population,
or for the British armies there, come from England, often narrowly
pressed herself for grain. Cadiz was open on August 26; all neutrals
admitted, and the British blockade raised. Through that portal and
Lisbon might flow a golden tide for American farmers and shipmen. The
town meetings of New England again displayed the power for prompt
political agitation which so impressed the imagination of Jefferson.
The Governor of Connecticut refused, on constitutional grounds, to
comply with the President's request to detail officers of militia, to
whom collectors could apply when needing assistance to enforce the
laws. The attitude of the Eastern people generally was that of mutiny;
and it became evident that it could only be repressed by violence, and
with danger to the Union.

Congress was not prepared to run this risk. On February 8, less than a
month after the Enforcement Act became law, its principal supporter in
the Senate[277] introduced a resolution for the partial repeal of the
Embargo Act. "This is not of my choice," he said, "nor is the step one
by which I could wish that my responsibility should be tested. It is
the offspring of conciliation, and of great concession on my part. On
one point we are agreed,--resistance to foreign aggressions. The
points of difficulty to be adjusted,--and compromised,--relate to the
extent of that resistance and the mode of its application. In my
judgment, if public sentiment could be brought to support them, wisdom
would dictate the combined measures of embargo, non-intercourse, and
war. Sir, when the love of peace degenerates into fear of war, it
becomes of all passions the most despicable." It was not the first
time the word "War" had been spoken, but the occasion made it doubly
significant and ominous; for it was the requiem of the measure upon
which the dominant party had staked all to avoid war, and the
elections had already declared that power should remain in the same
hands for at least two years to come. Within four weeks Madison was
to succeed his leader, Jefferson; with a Congressional majority,
reduced indeed, but still adequate.

The debate over the new measure, known as the Non-Intercourse Act, was
prolonged and heated, abounding in recriminations, ranging over the
whole gamut of foreign injuries and domestic misdoings, whether by
Government policy or rebellious action; but clearer and clearer the
demand for war was heard, through and above the din. "When the late
intelligence from the northeast reached us," said an emotional
follower of the Administration,[278] "it bore a character most
distressful to every man who valued the integrity of the Government.
Choosing not to enforce the law with the bayonet, I thought proper to
acknowledge to the House that I was ready to abandon the embargo....
The excitement in the East renders it necessary that we should enforce
it by the bayonet, or repeal. I will repeal, and could weep over it
more than over a lost child." There was, he said, nothing now but war.
"The very men who now set your laws at defiance," cried another, "will
be against you if you go to war;" but he added, "I will never let go
the embargo, unless on the very same day on which we let it go, we
draw the sword."[279]

Josiah Quincy, an extremist on the other side, gave a definition of
the position of Massachusetts, which from his ability, and his known
previous course on national questions, is particularly valuable. In
the light of the past, and of what was then future, it may be
considered to embody the most accurate summary of the views prevailing
in New England, from the time of the "Chesapeake" affair to the war.
He "wished a negotiation to be opened, unshackled with the impedimenta
which now exist. As long as they remained, people in the part of the
country whence he came would not deem an unsuccessful attempt at
negotiation cause for war. If they were removed, and an earnest
attempt at negotiation made, unimpeded by these restrictions, and
should not meet with success, they would join heartily in a war. They
would not, however, go to war to contest the right of Great Britain to
search American vessels for British seamen; for it was the general
opinion with them that, if American seamen were encouraged, there
would be no need for the employment of foreign seamen."[280] Quincy
therefore condemned the retaliatory temper of the Administration, as
shown in the "Chesapeake" incident by the proclamation excluding
British ships of war, and in the embargo as a reply to the Orders in
Council. The oppression of American trade, culminating in the Orders,
was a just cause of war; but war was not expedient before a further
attempt at negotiation, favored by a withdrawal of all retaliatory
acts. He was willing to concede the exercise of British authority on
board American merchantmen on the high seas.

In the main these were the coincident opinions of Monroe, although a
Virginian and identified with the opposite party. At this time he
wrote to Jefferson privately, urging a special mission, for which he
offered his services. "Our affairs are evidently at a pause, and the
next step to be taken, without an unexpected change, seems likely to
be the commencement of war with both France and Great Britain, unless
some expedient consistent with the honor of the Government and Country
is adopted to prevent it." To Jefferson's rejection of the proposition
he replied: "I have not the hope you seem still to entertain that our
differences with either Power will be accommodated under existing
arrangements. The embargo was not likely to accomplish the desired
effect, if it did not produce it under the first impression....
Without evidence of firm and strong union at home, nothing favorable
to us can be expected abroad, and from the symptoms in the Eastern
states there is much cause to fear that tranquillity cannot be secured
at present by adherence only to the measures which have heretofore
been pursued."[281] Monroe had already[282] expressed the opinion--not
to Jefferson, who had refused to ratify, but to a common
intimate--that had the treaty of December 31, 1806, signed by himself
and Pinkney, been accepted by the Administration, none of the
subsequent troubles with France and Great Britain would have ensued;
that not till the failure of accommodation with Great Britain became
known abroad was there placed upon the Berlin Decree that stricter
interpretation which elicited the Orders in Council, whence in due
sequence the embargo, the Eastern commotions, and the present alarming
outlook. In principle, Quincy and Monroe differed on the impressment
question, but in practical adjustment there was no serious divergence.
In other points they stood substantially together.

Under the combined influences indicated by the expressions quoted,
Congress receded rapidly from the extreme measures of domestic
regulation embodied in the various Embargo Acts and culminating in that
of January 9. The substitute adopted was pronouncedly of the character
of foreign policy, and assumed distinctly and unequivocally the hostile
form of retaliation upon the two countries under the decrees of which
American commerce was suffering. It foreshadowed the general line of
action followed by the approaching new Administration, with whose
views and purposes it doubtless coincided. Passed in the House on
February 27, 1809, it was to go into effect May 20, after which date
the ports of the United States were forbidden to the ships of war of
both France and Great Britain, except in cases of distress, or of
vessels bearing despatches. Merchant vessels of the two countries were
similarly excluded, with a provision for seizure, if entering.
Importation from any part of the dominions of those states was
prohibited, as also that of any merchandise therein produced. Under
these conditions, and with these exceptions, the embargo was to stand
repealed from March 15 following; but American and other merchant
vessels, sailing after the Act went into operation, were to be under
bonds not to proceed to any port of Great Britain or France, nor during
absence to engage in any trade, direct or indirect, with such port.
From the general character of these interdictions, stopping both
navigation and commerce between the United States and the countries
proscribed, this measure was commonly called the Non-Intercourse Act.
Its stormy passage through the House was marked by a number of
amendments and proposed substitutes, noticeable principally as
indicative of the growth of warlike temper among Southern members.
There were embodied with the bill the administrative and police clauses
necessary for its enforcement. Finally, as a weapon of negotiation in
the hands of the Government, there was a provision, corresponding to
one in the original Embargo Act, that in case either France or Great
Britain should so modify its measures as to cease to violate the
neutral commerce of the United States, the President was authorized to
proclaim the fact, after which trade with that country might be
renewed. In this shape the bill was returned to the Senate, which
concurred February 28. Next day it became law, by the President's

The Enforcement Act and the Non-Intercourse Act, taken together and in
their rapid sequence, symbolize the death struggle between Jefferson's
ideal of peaceful commercial restriction, unmitigated and protracted,
in the power of which he had absolute faith, and the views of those to
whom it was simply a means of diplomatic pressure, temporary, and
antecedent to war. Napoleon himself was not more ruthless than
Jefferson in his desired application of commercial prohibition. Not so
his party, in its entirety. The leading provisions of the
Non-Intercourse Act, by partially opening the door and so facilitating
abundant evasion, traversed Jefferson's plan. It was antecedently
notorious that their effect, as regarded Great Britain, would be to
renew trade with her by means of intermediary ports. Yet that they
were features in the policy of the men about to become prominent under
the coming Administration was known to Canning some time before the
resolution was introduced by Giles; before the Enforcement Act even
could reach England. Though hastened by the outburst in New England,
the policy of the Non-Intercourse Act was conceived before the
collapse of Jefferson's own measure was seen to be imminent.

On January 18 and 22 Canning, in informal conversations with Pinkney,
had expressed his satisfaction at proceedings in Congress, recently
become known, looking to the exclusion of French ships equally with
British, and to the extension of non-importation legislation to France
as well as Great Britain.[283] He thought that such measures might
open the way to a withdrawal of the Orders in Council, by enabling the
British Government to entertain the overture, made by Pinkney August
23, under instructions, that the President would suspend the embargo,
if the British Government would repeal its orders. This he conceived
could not be done, consistently with self-respect, so long as there
was inequality of treatment. In these anticipations he was encouraged
by representations concerning the attitude of Madison and some
intended members of his Cabinet, made to him by Erskine, the British
Minister in Washington, who throughout seems to have cherished an
ardent desire to reconcile differences which interfered with his just
appreciation even of written words,--much more of spoken.

In the interview of the 22d Pinkney confined himself to saying
everything "which I thought consistent with candor and discretion to
confirm him in his dispositions." He suggested that the whole matter
ought to be settled at Washington, and "that it would be well (in case
a special mission did not meet their approbation) that the necessary
powers should be sent to Mr. Erskine."[284] He added, "I offered my
intervention for the purpose of guarding them against deficiencies in
these powers."[285] The remark is noteworthy, for it shows Pinkney's
sense that Erskine's mere letter of credence as Minister Resident, not
supplemented by full powers for the special transaction, was
inadequate to a binding settlement of such important matters. In the
sequel the American Administration did not demand of Erskine the
production either of special powers or of the text of his
instructions; a routine formality which would have forestalled the
mortifying error into which it was betrayed by precipitancy, and which
became the occasion of a breach with Erskine's successor.

The day after his interview with Pinkney, Canning sent Erskine
instructions,[286] the starting-point of which was that the Orders in
Council must be maintained, unless their object could be otherwise
accomplished. Assuming, as an indispensable preliminary to any
negotiation, that equality of treatment between British and French
ships and merchandise would have been established, he said he
understood further from Erskine's reports of conversations that the
leading men in the new Administration would be prepared to agree to
three conditions: 1. That, contemporaneously with the withdrawal of
the Orders of January 7 and November 11, there would be a removal of
the restrictions upon British ships and merchandise, leaving in force
those against French. 2. The claim, to carry on with enemies' colonies
a trade not permitted in peace, would be abandoned for this war. 3.
Great Britain should be at liberty to secure the operation of the
Non-Intercourse measures, still in effect against France, by the
action of the British Navy, which should be authorized to capture
American vessels seeking to enter ports forbidden them by the
Non-Intercourse Act. Canning justly remarked that otherwise
Non-Intercourse would be nugatory; there would be nothing to prevent
Americans from clearing for England or Spain and going to Holland or
France. This was perfectly true. Not only had a year's experience of
the embargo so demonstrated, but a twelvemonth later[287] Gallatin had
to admit that "the summary of destinations of these exports, being
grounded on clearances, cannot be relied on under existing
circumstances. Thus, all the vessels actually destined for the
dominions of Great Britain, which left the United States between April
19 and June 10, 1809, cleared for other ports; principally, it is
believed, for Sweden." Nevertheless, the proposition that a foreign
state should enforce national laws, because the United States herself
could not, was saved from being an insult only by the belief,
extracted by Canning from Erskine's report of conversations, that
Madison, or his associates, had committed themselves to such an
arrangement. He added that Pinkney "recently (but for the first time)"
had expressed an opinion to the same effect.

The British Government would consent to withdraw the Orders in Council
on the conditions cited; and for the purpose of obtaining a distinct
and official recognition of them, Canning authorized Erskine to read
his letter _in extenso_ to the American Government. Had this been
done, as the three concessions were a _sine quâ non_, the
misunderstanding on which the despatch was based would have been at
once exposed; and while its assumptions and tone could scarcely have
failed to give offence, there would have been saved the successive
emotions of satisfaction and disappointment which swept over the
United States, leaving bitterness worse than before. Instead of
communicating Canning's letter, Erskine, after ascertaining that the
conditions would not be accepted, sent in a paraphrase of his own,
dated April 18,[288] in which he made no mention of the three
stipulations, but announced that, in consequence of the impartial
attitude resulting from the Non-Intercourse Act, his Majesty would
send a special envoy to conclude a treaty on all points of the
relations between the two countries, and meanwhile would be willing to
withdraw the Orders of January 7 and November 11, so far as affecting
the United States, in the persuasion that the President would issue
the proclamation restoring intercourse. This advance was welcomed, the
assurance of revocation given, and the next day Erskine wrote that he
was "authorized to declare that the Orders will have been withdrawn as
respects the United States on the 10th day of June next." The same
day, by apparent preconcertment, in accordance with Canning's
requirement that the two acts should be coincident, Madison issued
his proclamation, announcing the fact of the future withdrawal, and
that trade between the United States and Great Britain might be
renewed on June 10.

Erskine's proceeding was disavowed instantly by the British
Government, and himself recalled. A series of unpleasant explanations
followed between him and the members of the American Government,[289]
astonished by the interpretation placed upon their words, as shown in
Canning's despatch. Canning also had to admit that he had strained
Erskine's words, in reaching his conclusions as to the willingness of
Madison and his advisers to allow the enforcement of the
Non-Intercourse Act by British cruisers;[290] while Pinkney entirely
disclaimed intending any such opinion as Canning imagined him to have
expressed.[291] The British Secretary was further irritated by the
tone of the American replies to Erskine's notes; but he "forbore to
trouble"[292] Pinkney with any comment upon them. That would be made
through Erskine's successor; an unhappy decision, as it proved. No
explanation of the disavowal was given; but the instructions sent were
read to Pinkney by Canning, and a letter followed saying that
Erskine's action had been in direct contradiction to them. Things thus
returned to the momentarily interrupted condition of American
Non-Intercourse and British Orders in Council; the British Government
issuing a temporary order for the protection of American vessels which
might have started for the ports of Holland in reliance upon Erskine's
assurances. From America there had been numerous clearances for
England; and it may be believed that there would have been many more
if the transient nature of the opportunity had been foreseen. August
9, Madison issued another proclamation, annulling the former.

While Erskine was conducting his side negotiation, the British
Government had largely modified the scope of the restrictions laid
upon neutral trade. In consequence of the various events which had
altered its relations with European states and their dependencies, the
Orders of November, 1807, were revoked; and for them was substituted a
new one, dated April 26, 1809,[293] similar in principle but much
curtailed in extent. Only the coasts of France itself, of Holland to
its boundary, the River Ems, and those of Italy falling under
Napoleon's own dominion, from Orbitello to Pesaro, were thenceforth to
be subject to "the same restrictions as if actually blockaded."
Further, no permission was given, as in the former Orders, to
communicate with the forbidden ports by first entering one of Great
Britain, paying a transit duty, and obtaining a permit to proceed. In
terms, prohibition was now unqualified; and although it was known that
licenses for intercourse with interdicted harbors were freely issued,
the overt offence of prescribing British channels to neutral
navigation was avoided. Within the area of restriction, "No trade save
through England" was thus converted, in form, to no trade at all. This
narrowing of the constructive blockade system, combined with the
relaxations effected by the Non-Intercourse Act, and with the food
requirements of the Spanish peninsula, did much to revive American
commerce; which, however, did not again before the war regain the fair
proportions of the years preceding the embargo. The discrepancy was
most marked in the re-exportation of foreign tropical produce, sugar
and coffee, a trade dependent wholly upon war conditions, and
affecting chiefly the shipping interest engaged in carrying it. For
this falling off there were several causes. After 1809 the Continental
system was more than ever remorselessly enforced, and it was to the
Continent almost wholly that Americans had carried these articles.
The Spanish colonies were now open to British as well as American
customers; and the last of the French West Indies having passed into
British possession, trade with them was denied to foreigners by the
Navigation Act. In 1807 the value of the colonial produce re-exported
from the United States was $59,643,558; in 1811, $16,022,790. The
exports of domestic productions in the same years were: 1807,
$48,699,592; in 1811, $45,294,043. In connection with these figures,
as significant of political conditions, it is interesting to note that
of the latter sum $18,266,466 went to Spain and Portugal, chiefly to
supply demands created by war. So with tropical produce; out of the
total of $16,022,790, $5,772,572 went to the Peninsula, and an equal
amount to the Baltic, that having become the centre of accumulation,
from which subsequent distribution was made to the Continent in
elusion of the Continental System. The increasing poverty of the
Continent, also, under Napoleon's merciless suppression of foreign
commerce, greatly lessened the purchasing power of the inhabitants.
The great colonial trade had wasted under the combined action of
British Orders and French Decrees, supplemented by changes in
political relations. The remote extremities of the Baltic lands and
the Spanish peninsula now alone sustained its drooping life.

Coincident with Erskine's recall had been the appointment of his
successor, Mr. Francis J. Jackson, who took with him not only the
usual credentials, but also full powers for concluding a treaty or
convention.[294] He departed for his post under the impulse of the
emotions and comments excited by the manner and terms in which
Erskine's advances had been met, with which Canning had forborne to
trouble Pinkney. Upon his arrival in Washington, disappointment was
expressed that he had no authority to give any explanations of the
reasons why his Government had disavowed arrangements, entered into by
Erskine, concerning not only the withdrawal of the Orders in
Council,--as touching the United States,--but also the reparation for
the "Chesapeake" business. This Erskine had offered and concluded,
coincidently with the revocation of the Orders, though not in
connection with it; but in both instances his action was disapproved
by his Government. After two verbal conferences, held within a week of
Jackson's arrival, the Secretary of State, Mr. Robert Smith, notified
him on October 9 that it was thought expedient, for the present
occasion, that further communication on this matter should be in
writing. There followed an exchange of letters, which in such
circumstances passed necessarily under the eyes of President Madison,
who for the eight preceding years had held Smith's present office.

This correspondence[295] presents an interesting exhibition of
diplomatic fencing; but beyond the discussion, pro and con, of the
matters in original and continuous dispute between the two countries,
the issue turned upon the question whether the United States had
received the explanation due to it,--in right and courtesy,--of the
reasons for disavowing Erskine's agreements. Smith maintained it had
not. Jackson rejoined that sufficient explanation had been given by
the terms of Canning's letter of May 27 to Pinkney, announcing that
Erskine had been recalled because he had acted in direct contradiction
to his instructions; an allegation sustained by reading to the
American minister the instructions themselves. In advancing this
argument, Jackson stated also that Canning's three conditions had been
made known by Erskine to the American Government, which, in declining
to admit them, had suggested substitutes finally accepted by Erskine;
so that the United States understood that the arrangement was reached
on another basis than that laid down by Canning. This assertion he
drew from the expressions of Erskine in a letter to Canning, after the
disavowal. Smith replied that Erskine, while not showing the despatch,
had stated the three stipulations; that they had been rejected; and
that the subsequent arrangement had been understood to be with a
minister fully competent to recede from his first demand and to accept
other conditions. Distinctly he affirmed, that the United States
Government did not know, at any time during the discussion preceding
the agreement, that Erskine's powers were limited by the conditions in
the text of his instructions, afterwards published. That he had no
others, "is now for the first time made known to this Government," by
Jackson's declaration.

    [Illustration: JAMES MADISON
    From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in Bowdoin College,
    Brunswick, Me.]

Jackson had come prepared to maintain, not only the British
contention, but the note set by Canning for British diplomatic
correspondence. He was conscious too of opposing material force to
argument, and had but recently been amid the scenes at Copenhagen,
which had illustrated Nelson's maxim that a fleet of ships of the line
were the best negotiators in Europe. The position has its advantages,
but also its dangers, when the field of warfare is that of words, not
deeds; and in Madison, who superintended the American case, he was
unequally matched with an adversary whose natural dialectical ability
had been tempered and sharpened in many campaigns. There is
noticeable, too, on the American side, a labored effort at acuteness
of discrimination, an adroitness to exaggerate shades of difference
practically imperceptible, and an aptitude to give and take offence,
not so evident under the preceding Administration. These suggest
irresistibly the absence, over Madison the President, of a moderating
hand, which had been held over Madison the Secretary of State. It may
be due also to the fact that both the President and his Cabinet were
somewhat less indisposed to war than his predecessor had been.

In his answer to Smith Jackson reiterated, what Smith had admitted,
that Erskine had made known the three conditions. He added, "No
stronger illustration of the deviation from them which occurred can be
given than by a reference to the terms of the agreement." As an
incidental comment, supporting the contention that Erskine's departure
from his sole authority was so decisive as to be a sufficient
explanation for the disavowal of his procedure, the words were
admissible; so much so as to invite the suspicion that the opponent,
who had complained of the want of such explanation, felt the touch of
the foil, and somewhat lost temper. Whatever impression of an
insinuation the phrase may have conveyed should have been wholly
removed by the further expression, in close sequence, "You are already
acquainted with the instruction given; and _I have had_[296] the honor
of informing you it was the only one." Smith's knowledge that
Erskine's powers were limited to the one document is here attributed
explicitly to Jackson. The Secretary (or President) saw fit not to
recognize this, but took occasion to administer a severe rebuke, which
doubtless the general tone of Jackson's letter tended to provoke. "I
abstain, sir, from making any particular animadversions on several
irrelevant and improper allusions in your letter.... But it would be
improper to conclude the few observations to which I purposely limit
myself, without adverting to your repetition of a language implying a
knowledge, on the part of this Government, that the instructions of
your predecessor did not authorize the arrangement formed by him.
After the explicit and peremptory asseveration that this Government
had no such knowledge, and that with such a knowledge no such
arrangement would have been entered into, the view which you have
again presented of the subject makes it my duty to apprise you that
such insinuations are inadmissible in the intercourse of a foreign
minister with a Government that understands what it owes to itself."

Whatever may be thought of the construction placed upon Jackson's
words by his opponent, this thrust should have made him look to his
footing; but arrogance and temper carried the day, and laid him open
to the fatal return which he received. By drawing attention to the
qualifying phrase, he could have shown that he had been misunderstood,
but he practically accepted the interpretation; for, instead of
repelling it, he replied: "In my correspondence with you I have
carefully avoided drawing conclusions that did not necessarily follow
from the premises advanced by me, and least of all should I think of
uttering an insinuation where I was unable to substantiate a fact. To
facts, such as I have become acquainted with them, I have scrupulously
adhered, and in so doing I must continue, whenever the good faith of
his Majesty's Government is called in question," etc. To this outburst
the reply was: "You have used language which cannot but be understood
as reiterating, and even aggravating, the same gross insinuation. It
only remains, in order to preclude opportunities which are thus
abused, to inform you that no further communications will be received
from you, and that the necessity for this determination will, without
delay, be made known to your Government." Jackson thereupon quitted
Washington for New York, leaving a _chargé d'affaires_ for transacting
current business.

Before leaving the city, however, Jackson, through the channel of the
_chargé_, made a statement to the Secretary of State. In this he
alleged that the facts which he considered it his duty to state, and
to the assertion of which, as facts, exception was taken, and his
dismissal attributed, were two. One was, that the three conditions had
been submitted by Mr. Erskine to the Secretary of State. This the
Secretary had admitted. "The other, namely: that that instruction is
the only one, in which the conditions were prescribed to Mr. Erskine,
for the conclusion of an arrangement on the matter to which it
related, is known to Mr. Jackson by the instructions which he has
himself received." This he had said in his second letter; if somewhat
obscurely, still not so much so but that careful reading, and
indisposition to take offence, could have detected his meaning, and
afforded him the opportunity to be as explicit as in this final paper.
If Madison, who is understood to have given special supervision to
this correspondence,[297] meant the severe rebuke conveyed by his
reply as a feint, to lead the British minister incautiously to expose
himself to a punishment which his general bearing and that of his
Government deserved, he assuredly succeeded; yet it may be questioned
who really came best out of the encounter. Jackson had blundered in
words; the American Administration had needlessly intensified
international bitterness.

Prepossession in reading, and proneness to angry misconception, must
be inferred in the conduct of the American side of this discussion;
for another notable and even graver instance occurs in the
despatch[298] communicating Jackson's dismissal to Pinkney, beyond
whose notice it probably was not allowed to go. Canning, in his third
rejected condition, had written:

    Great Britain, for the purpose of securing _the operation of_
    the embargo, and _of_ the bonâ fide intention of America to
    prevent her citizens from trading with France, and the Powers
    adopting and acting under the French decrees, is to be
    considered as being at liberty to capture all such American
    vessels as shall be found attempting to trade with the ports of
    such Powers;[299]

and he explained that, unless such permission was granted, "the
raising of the embargo nominally as to Great Britain, would raise it,
in fact, with respect to all the world," owing to the evident
inability of the United States to enforce its orders beyond its own

In the passage quoted, both the explanatory comment and the syntax
show that the object of this proposed concession was to secure _the
operation_, the effectual working, of the _bonâ fide_ intention
expressly conceded to the American Government. The repetition of the
preposition "of," before _bonâ fide_, secures this meaning beyond
peradventure. Nevertheless Smith, in labored arraignment of the whole
British course, wrote to Pinkney as follows:

    In urging this concession, Mr. Canning has taken a ground
    forbidden by those principles of decorum which regulate and mark
    the proceedings of Governments towards each other. In his
    despatch the condition is stated to be for the purpose of
    _securing the bonâ fide intention_ of America, to prevent her
    citizens from trading with France and certain other Powers; in
    other words to secure a pledge to that effect against the _malâ
    fide_ intention of the United States. And this despatch too was
    authorized to be communicated _in extenso_ to the Government, of
    which such language was used.[300]

Being addressed only to Pinkney, a man altogether too careful and
shrewd not to detect the mistake, no occasion arose for this grave
misstatement doing harm, or receiving correction. But, conjoined with
the failure to note that Jackson in his second letter had attributed
to his own communication the American Government's knowledge that
Erskine had no alternative instructions, the conclusion is
irresistible that the President acted, perhaps unconsciously, under
impulses foreign to the deliberate care which should precede and
accompany so momentous an act as the refusal to communicate with an
accredited foreign minister. It will be remembered that this action
was taken on grounds avowedly independent of the reasonableness or
justice of the British demands. It rested purely on the conduct of the
minister himself.

This incident powerfully furthered the alienation of the two nations,
for the British Government not only refused to disapprove Jackson's
conduct, but for nearly two years neglected to send a successor, thus
establishing strained diplomatic relations. Before finally leaving
this unlucky business, it is due to a complete appreciation to mention
that, in its very outset, at the beginning of Erskine's well-meant but
blundering attempt, the United States Government had overpassed the
limits of diplomatic civility. Canning was a master of insolence; he
could go to the utmost verge of insult and innuendo, without
absolutely crossing the line which separates them from formal
observance of propriety; but it cannot be said that the American
correspondence in this instance was equally adroit. In replying to
Erskine's formal offer of reparation for the "Chesapeake" affair,
certain points essential to safeguarding the position of the United
States were carefully and properly pointed out; then the reparation,
as tended, was accepted. There the matter might have dropped;
acceptance is acceptance; or, if necessary, failure of full
satisfaction on the part of the United States might have been candidly
stated, as due to itself. But the Secretary[301] proceeded to
words--and mere words--reflecting on the British Sovereign and
Government. "I have it in express charge from the President to state,
that, while he forbears to insist upon the further punishment of the
offending officer, he is not the less sensible of the justice and
utility of such an example, nor the less persuaded that it would best
comport with what is due from his Britannic Majesty to his own honor."

To the writer nothing quite as bad as this occurs in Jackson's
letters, objectionable as they were in tone. With the opinion he
agrees; the further employment of Berkeley was indecent, nor was he a
man for whom it could be claimed that he was indispensable; but it is
one thing to hold an opinion, and another to utter it to the person
concerned. Had Madison meant war, he might have spoken as he did, and
fought; but to accept, and then to speak words barren of everything
but useless insult, is intolerable. Jackson very probably believed
that the American Government was lying when it said it did not know
the facts as to Erskine's instructions.[302] It would be quite in
character that he should; but he did not say so. There was put into
his mouth a construction of his words which he heedlessly accepted.

Jackson's dismissal was notified to the British Government through
Pinkney, on January 2, 1810.[303] Some time before, a disagreement
within the British Cabinet had led to a duel between Castlereagh and
Canning, in which the latter was severely wounded. He did not return
to the Foreign Office, but was succeeded by the Marquis Wellesley,
brother of the future Duke of Wellington. After presenting the view of
the correspondence taken by his Government, Pinkney seems to betray a
slight uneasiness as to the accuracy of the interpretation placed on
Jackson's words. "I willingly leave your Lordship to judge whether Mr.
Jackson's correspondence will bear any other construction than that it
in fact received; and whether, supposing it to have been erroneously
construed, his letter of the 4th of November should not have corrected
the mistake, instead of confirming and establishing it."

Wellesley, with a certain indolent nonchalance, characteristic of his
correspondence with Pinkney, delayed to answer for two months, and
then gave a reply as indifferent in manner as it was brief in terms.
Jackson had written, "There appears to have prevailed, throughout the
whole of this transaction [Erskine's], a fundamental mistake, which
would suggest that his Majesty had proposed to propitiate the
Government of the United States, to consent to the renewal of
commercial intercourse; ... as if, in any arrangement, his Majesty
would condescend to barter objects of national policy and dignity for
permission to trade with another country." The phrase was Canning's,
and summarized precisely the jealous attitude towards its own prestige
characteristic of the British policy of the day. It also defined
exactly the theory upon which the foreign policy of the United States
had been directed for eight years by the party still in power. Madison
and Jefferson had both placed just this construction upon Erskine's
tender. "The British Cabinet must have changed its course under a full
conviction that an adjustment with this country had become
essential."[304] "Gallatin had a conversation with Turreau at his
residence near Baltimore. He professes to be confident that his
Government will consider England broken down, by the examples she has
given in repealing her Orders."[305] "By our unyielding adherence to
principle Great Britain has been forced into revocation."[306] Canning
and his associates intuitively divined this inference, which after all
was obvious enough. The feeling increased their discontent with
Erskine, who had placed his country in the false light of receding
under commercial pressure from America, and probably enough
prepossessed them with the conviction that the American Government
could not but have realized that Erskine was acting beyond his powers.

Wellesley, after his manner,--which was not Canning's,--asserted
equally the superiority of the British Government to concession for
the sake of such advantage. His Majesty regretted the Jackson episode,
the more so that no opportunity had been given for him to interpose,
which "was the usual course in such cases." Mr. Jackson had written
positive assurances that it was not his purpose to give offence; to
which the reply was apt, that in such matters it is not enough to
intend, but to succeed in avoiding offence.[307] "His Majesty has not
marked, with any expression of his displeasure, the conduct of Mr.
Jackson, who does not appear, on this occasion, to have committed any
intentional offence against the Government of the United States." A
_chargé_ would be appointed to carry on the ordinary intercourse, but
no intention was expressed of sending another minister. Persistence in
this neglect soon became a further ground of bad feeling.

By its own limitations the Non-Intercourse Act was to expire at the
end of the approaching spring session of the new Congress, but it was
renewed by that body to the end of the winter session. During the
recess the Jackson episode occurred, and was the first subject to
engage attention on reassembling, November 27, 1809. After prolonged
discussion in the lower house,[308] a joint resolution was passed
approving the action of the Executive, and pledging to him the support
of the nation. Despite a lucid exposition by Josiah Quincy, that the
offence particularly attributed to the British minister was disproved
by a reasonable attention to the construction of his sentences, the
majority persisted in sustaining the party chief. That disposed of,
the question of commercial restriction was again taken up.

It was conceded on all sides that Non-Intercourse had failed, and
precisely in the manner predicted. On the south, Amelia Island,--at
the mouth of the St. Mary's River, just outside the Florida
boundary,--and on the north Halifax, and Canada in general, had become
ports of deposit for American products, whence they were conveyed in
British ships to Great Britain and her dependencies, to which the Act
forbade American vessels to go. The effect was to give the carrying of
American products to British shipping, in precise conformity with the
astute provisions of the Navigation Acts. British markets were reached
by a broken voyage, the long leg of which, from Amelia and Halifax to
Europe and elsewhere, was taken by British navigation. It was stated
that there were at a given moment one hundred British vessels at
Amelia,[309] the shores of which were encumbered with American goods
awaiting such transportation. The freight from the American ports to
Amelia averaged a cent a pound, from Amelia to England eight
cents;[310] the latter amount going to British pockets, the former to
Americans who were debarred from full transatlantic freight by the
prohibitions of the Non-Intercourse Act. The absence of competition
necessarily raised the prices obtainable by the British shipper, and
this, together with the additional cost of transshipment and delays,
attendant upon a broken voyage, fell upon the American agriculturist,
whose goods commanded just so much less at their place of origin. The
measure was even ingeniously malaprop, considered from the point of
view of its purpose towards Great Britain, whether retaliatory or
coercive. Upon France its effect was trivial, in any aspect. There was
no French navigation, and the Orders in Council left little chance for
American vessels to reach French ports.

All agreed that the Non-Intercourse Act must go; the difficulty was to
find a substitute which should not confessedly abandon the whole
system of commercial restrictions, idealized by the party in power,
but from which it was being driven foot by foot. A first measure
proposed was to institute a Navigation Act, borrowed in broad outline
from that of Great Britain, but in operation applied only to that
nation and France, in retaliation for their injurious edicts.[311]
Open intercourse with the whole world should be restored; but British
and French merchant ships, as well as vessels of war, should be
excluded from American harbors. British and French products could be
imported only in vessels owned wholly by American citizens; and after
April 15, 1810, could be introduced only by direct voyage from the
place of origin. This was designed to prevent the continuance of trade
by way of Amelia or Halifax. It was pointed out in debate, however,
that French shipping practically did not exist, and that in the days
of open trade, before the embargo, only about eight thousand tons of
British shipping yearly entered American ports, whereas from three
hundred thousand to four hundred thousand American tons visited Great
Britain.[312] Should she, by a strict retaliation, resent this clumsy
attempt at injuring her, the weight of the blow would fall on
Americans. American ships would be excluded from British ports; the
carrying trade to Amelia and Halifax would be resumed, to the
detriment of American vessels by a competition which otherwise would
not exist, and British manufactures would be introduced by smuggling,
to the grievous loss of the revenue, as had been notoriously and
abundantly the case under the Non-Intercourse Act. In truth, a purely
commercial war with Great Britain was as injurious as a military war,
and more hopeless.

The bill consequently failed in the Senate, though passed by the
House. In its stead was adopted an Act which repealed that of
Non-Intercourse, but prescribed that in case either Great Britain or
France, before March 3, 1811, should so revoke or modify its edicts as
that they should cease to violate the neutral commerce of the United
States, the President should declare the fact by proclamation; and if
the other nation should not, within three months from the date of such
proclamation, in like manner so modify or revoke its edicts, there
should revive against it those sections of the Non-Intercourse Act
which excluded its vessels from American ports, and forbade to
American vessels importation from its ports, or of its goods from any
part of the world whatsoever. The determination of the fact of
revocation by either state was left to the sole judgment of the
President, by whose approval the Act became law May 1, 1810.[313]

As Great Britain and France, by the Orders in Council and the Berlin
and Milan Decrees, were then engaged in a commercial warfare, in which
the object of each was to exhaust its rival, the effect of this Act
was to tender the co-operation of the United States to whichever of
them should embrace the offer. In terms, it was strictly impartial
between the two. In fact, forasmuch as France could not prevent
American intercourse with Great Britain, whereas Great Britain, in
furtherance of her purposes, could and did prevent American trade with
France, the latter had much more to gain; and particularly, if she
should so word her revocation as to save her face, by not appearing
the first to recede,--to show weakening,--as Great Britain had been
made for the moment to seem by Erskine's arrangement. Should this
ingenious diplomacy prove satisfactory to the President, yet fail so
to convince Great Britain as to draw from her the recall of the Orders
in Council, the United States, by the simple operation of the law
itself, would become a party to the Emperor's Continental system, in
its specific aim of reducing his opponent's strength.

At this very moment Napoleon was putting into effect against the
United States one of those perverse and shameless interpretations of
international relations, or actions, by which he not infrequently
contrived to fill his pockets. The Non-Intercourse Act, passed March
3, 1809, had decreed forfeiture of any French or British ship, or
goods, which should enter American waters after May 20, of the same
year. The measure was duly communicated to the French Government, and
no remonstrance had been made against a municipal regulation, which
gave ample antecedent warning. There the matter rested until March 23,
1810, when the Emperor, on the ground of the Act, imposing these
confiscations and forbidding American vessels to visit France, signed
a retroactive decree that all vessels under the flag of the United
States, which, since May 20, 1809, had entered ports of his empire,
colonies, or of the countries occupied by his arms, should be seized
and sold. Commissioners were sent to Holland to enforce there this
edict, known as the Decree of Rambouillet, which was not actually
published till May 14.[314] It took effect upon vessels which, during
a twelvemonth previous, unwarned, had gone to France, or the other
countries indicated. Immediately before it was signed, the American
minister, Armstrong, had written to Champagny, Duke of Cadore, the
French Minister of Foreign Affairs, "Your Excellency knows that there
are not less than one hundred American ships within his Majesty's
possession, or that of his allies;" and he added that, from several
sources of information, he felt warranted in believing that not a
single French vessel had violated the Non-Intercourse law, and
therefore none could have been seized.[315]

The law of May 1 was duly communicated to the two states concerned, by
the United States ministers there resident. Great Britain was informed
that not only the Orders in Council, but the blockade of May,
1806,[316] were included among the edicts affecting American commerce,
the repeal of which was expected, as injurious to that commerce.
France was told that this demand would be made upon her rival;[317]
but that it was also the purpose of the President not to give the law
effect favorable to herself, by publishing a proclamation, if the late
seizures of the property of citizens of the United States had been
followed by absolute confiscation, and restoration were finally
refused.[318] This referred not to the Rambouillet Decree, as yet
unknown in America, but to the previous seizures upon various
pretexts, mentioned above by Armstrong. Ultimately this purpose was
not adhered to; but the Emperor was attentive to the President's
intimation that "by putting in force, agreeably to the terms of this
statute, the non-intercourse against Great Britain, the very species
of resistance would be made which France has constantly been
representing as most efficacious."[319] Thus, the co-operation of
America to the Continental System was no longer asked, but offered.

The Emperor did not wait even for information by the usual official
channels. By some unexplained delay, Armstrong's first knowledge was
through a copy of the Gazette of the United States containing the Act,
which he at once transmitted to Champagny, who replied August 5,
1810.[320] His Majesty wished that the acts of the United States
Government could be more promptly communicated; not till very lately
had he heard of the Non-Intercourse,--a statement which Armstrong
promptly denied, referring Champagny to the archives of his own
department.[321] In view of the Act of May 1, the Emperor's decision
was announced in a paragraph of the same letter, in the following

    In this new state of things I am authorized to declare to you,
    Sir, that the Decrees of Berlin and Milan are revoked, and that
    after the first of November they will cease to have effect; it
    being understood that, in consequence of this declaration, the
    English shall revoke their Orders in Council, and renounce the
    new principles of blockade, which they have wished to establish;
    or that the United States, conformably to the Act which you have
    just communicated, shall cause their rights to be respected by
    the English.

Definition is proverbially difficult; and over this superficially
simple definition of circumstances and conditions, under which the
Decrees of Berlin and Milan stood revoked, arose a discussion
concerning construction and meaning which resembled the wrangling of
scholars over a corrupt text in an obscure classical author.
Clear-headed men became hopelessly involved, as they wrestled with
each others' interpretations; and the most got no farther than
sticking to their first opinions, probably reached in the majority of
cases by sheer prepossession. The American ministers to France and
Great Britain both accepted the words as a distinct, indisputable,
revocation; and Madison followed suit. These hasty conclusions are not
very surprising; for there was personal triumph, dear to diplomatists
as to other men, in seeing the repeal of the Decrees, or of the
Orders, result from their efforts. It has been seen how much this
factor entered into the feelings of Madison and Jefferson in the
Erskine business, and to Armstrong the present turn was especially
grateful, as he was about quitting his mission after several years
buffeting against wind and tide. His sun seemed after all about to set
in glory. He wrote to Pinkney, "I have the honor to inform you that
his Majesty, the Emperor and King, has been pleased to revoke his
Decrees of Berlin and Milan."[322] Pinkney, to whom the recall of the
British Orders offered the like laurels, was equally emphatic in his
communication to Wellesley; adding, "I take for granted that the
revocation of the British Orders in Council of January and November,
1807, April, 1809, and all other orders dependent upon, or analogous,
or in execution of them, will follow of course."[323] The British
Government demurred to the interpretation; but Madison accepted it,
and on November 2 proclaimed it as a fact. In consequence, by the
terms of the Act, non-intercourse would revive against Great Britain
on February 2, 1811.

When Congress met, distrust on one side and assertion on the other
gave rise to prolonged and acute discussion. Napoleon had surprised
people so often, that no wonder need be felt at those who thought his
words might bear a double meaning. The late President, who did not
lack sagacity, had once written to his successor, "Bonaparte's policy
is so crooked that it eludes conjecture. I fear his first object now
is to dry up the sources of British prosperity, by excluding her
manufactures from the Continent. He may fear that opening the ports of
Europe to our vessels will open them to an inundation of British
wares."[324] This was exactly Bonaparte's dilemma, and suggested the
point of view from which his every action ought to be scrutinized.
Then there was the recent deception with Erskine, which, if it
increased the doubts of some concerning the soundness of Madison's
judgment, made it the more incumbent on others to show that on this
occasion at least he had not been precipitate. Certainly, as regards
the competency of the foreign official in either case, there was no
comparison. A simple Minister Resident should produce particular
powers or definite instructions, to guarantee his authority for
concluding so important a modification of national policy as was
accepted from Erskine; but by common usage the Minister of Foreign
Affairs, at a national capital, is understood to speak for the Chief
Executive. The statement of Champagny, at Paris, that he was
"authorized" to make a specific declaration, could be accepted as the
voice of Napoleon himself. The only question was, what did the voice

In truth, explicit as Champagny's words sound, Napoleon's
memoranda,[325] on which they were based, show a deliberate purpose to
avoid a formal revocation, for reasons analogous to those suggested by
Jefferson. Throughout he used "_rapporter_" instead of "_révoquer_."
In the particular connection, the words are nearly synonymous; yet to
the latter attaches a natural fitness and emphasis, the avoidance of
which betrays the bias, perhaps unconscious, towards seeking escape
from self-committal on the matter in hand. His phrases are more
definite. July 31 he wrote, "After much reflection upon American
affairs, I have decided that to withdraw (_rapporter_) my decrees of
Berlin and Milan would conduce to nothing (_n'aurait aucun effet_);
that it is better you should address a note to Mr. Armstrong, in which
you will acquaint him that you have placed before me the details
contained in the American gazette, ... and since he assures us it may
be regarded as official, he may depend (_compter_) that my decrees of
Berlin and Milan will not receive execution (_n'auront aucun effet_)
dating from November 1; and that he should consider them as withdrawn
(_rapportés_) in consequence of the Act of the American Congress;
provided," etc. "This," he concludes, "seems to me more suitable than
a decree, which would cause disturbance and would not fulfil my aim.
This method seems to me more conformable to my dignity and to the
serious character of the business." The Decrees, as touching the
United States alone, were to be quietly withdrawn from action, but not
formally revoked. They were to be dormant, yet potential. As
convenience might dictate, it would be open to say that they were
revoked [in effect], or not revoked [in form]. The one might, and did,
satisfy the United States; the other might not, and did not, content
Great Britain, against whom exclusion from the continent remained in
force. The two English-speaking peoples were set by the ears. August 2
the Emperor made a draft of the note to be sent to Armstrong. This
Champagny copied almost verbatim in the declaration quoted;
substituting, however, "_révoquer_" for "_rapporter_."

It would be intolerable to attempt to drag readers through the mazes
of analysis, and of comparison with other papers, by which the parties
to the discussion, ignorant of the above memoranda, sought to
establish their respective views. One thing, however, should have been
patent to all,--that, with a man so subtle and adroit as Napoleon, any
step in apparent reversal of a decided and cherished policy should
have been complete and unequivocal, both in form and in terms. The
Berlin Decree was put forth with the utmost formality with which
majesty and power could invest it; the asserted revocation, if
apparently explicit, was simply a paragraph in ordinary diplomatic
correspondence, stating that revocation had taken place. If so, where
was it? An act which undoes another, particularly if an injury, must
correspond fully in form to that which it claims to undo. A private
insult may receive private apology; but no private expression can
atone for public insult or public wrong. In the appreciation of Mr.
Madison, in 1807, so grave an outrage as that of the "Chesapeake"
called for a special envoy, to give adequate dignity to the proffered
reparation. Yet his followers now would have form to be indifferent to
substantial effect. Champagny's letter, it is true, was published in
the official paper; but, besides being in form merely a diplomatic
letter, it bore the signature of Champagny, whereas the decree bore
that of Napoleon. The Decree of Rambouillet, then less than six months
old, was clothed with the like sanction. Even Pinkney, usually so
clear-headed, and in utterance incisive, suffered himself here to be
misled. Does England find inadequate the "manner" of the French
Revocation? he asked. "It is precisely that in which the orders of its
own Government, establishing, modifying, or removing blockades, are
usually proclaimed." But the Decree of Berlin was no mere proclamation
of a blockade. It had been proclaimed, in the Emperor's own name, a
fundamental law of the Empire, until England had abandoned certain
lines of action. This was policy against policy, to which the blockade
was incidental as a method. English blockades were announced and
withdrawn under identical forms of circular letter; but when an Order
in Council, as that of November, 1807, was modified, as in April,
1809, it was done by an Order in Council, not by a diplomatic letter.
In short, Champagny's utterance was the declaration of a fact; but
where was the fact itself?

Great Britain therefore refused to recognize the letter as a
revocation, and could not be persuaded that it was by the opinion of
the American authorities. Nor was the form alone inadequate; the terms
were ambiguous, and lent themselves to a construction which would
deprive her of all benefit from the alleged revocation. She had to
look to her own battle, which reached its utmost intensity in this
year 1810. Except the helpless Spanish and Portuguese insurgents, she
had not an open friend in Europe; while Napoleon, freed from all
opponents by the overthrow of Austria in 1809, had organized against
Great Britain and her feeble allies the most gigantic display of force
made in the peninsula since his own personal departure thence, nearly
two years before. The United States had plain sailing; so far as the
letter went, the Decrees were revoked, conditional on her executing
the law of May 1. But Great Britain must renounce the "new" principles
of blockade. What were these principles, pronounced new by the Decree?
They were, that unfortified ports, commercial harbors, might be
blockaded, as the United States a half century later strangled the
Southern Confederacy. Such blockades were lawful then and long before.
To yield this position would be to abandon rights upon which depended
the political value of Great Britain's maritime supremacy; yet unless
she did so the Berlin Decree remained in force against her. The
Decree was universal in application, not limited to the United States
commerce, towards which Champagny's letter undertook to relax it; and
British commerce would remain excluded from neutral continental ports
unless Great Britain not only withdrew the Orders in Council, but
relinquished prescriptive rights upon which, in war, depended her
position in the world.

In declining to repeal, Great Britain referred to her past record in
proof of consistency. In the first communication of the Orders in
Council, February 23, 1808,[326] Erskine had written, "I am commanded
by his Majesty especially to represent to the Government of the United
States the earnest desire of his Majesty to see the commerce _of the
world_ restored once more to that freedom which is necessary for its
prosperity, and his readiness to abandon the system which has been
forced upon him, _whenever the enemy shall retract the principles_
which have rendered it necessary." The British envoy in these
sentences reproduced _verbatim_ the instructions he had received,[327]
and the words italicized bar expressly the subsequent contention of
the United States, that revocation by one party as to one nation,
irrespective of the rest _of the world_, and that in practice only,
not in principle, entitled the nation so favored to revocation by the
other party. They exclude therefore, by all the formality of written
words at a momentous instant, the singular assertion of the American
Government, in 1811, that Great Britain had pledged herself to proceed
"_pari passu_"[328] with France in the revocation of their respective
acts. As far as can be ascertained, the origin of this confident
assumption is to be found in letters of February 18 and 19, 1808,[329]
from Madison, then Secretary of State, to Armstrong and Pinkney. In
these he says that Erskine, in communicating the Orders,[330]
expressed his Majesty's regrets, and "assurances that his Majesty
would readily follow the example, in case the Berlin Decree should be
rescinded, or would proceed _pari passu_ with France in relaxing the
rigor of their measures." By whichever of the colloquists the
expression was used, the contrast between this report of an interview
and the official letter quoted sufficiently shows the snare latent in
conversations, and the superior necessity of relying upon written
communications, to which informal talk only smooths the way. On the
very day of Madison's writing to Armstrong, February 18, the Advocate
General, who may be presumed to have understood the purposes of the
Government, was repudiating such a construction in the House of
Commons. "Even let it be granted that there had been a public
assurance to America that she alone was to be excepted from the
influence of the Berlin Decree, would that have been a sufficient
ground for us not to look further to our own interest? What! Because
France chooses to exempt America from her injurious decrees, are we to
consent to their continuance?"[331] Where such a contradiction
exists, to assert a pledge from a Government, and that two years after
Erskine's singular performance of 1809, which led to his recall, is a
curious example of the capacity of the American Administration, under
Madison's guidance, for putting words into an opponent's mouth. In the
present juncture, Wellesley replied[332] to Pinkney's claim for the
revocation of the Orders in Council by quoting, and repeating, the
assurance of Erskine's letter of February 23, 1808, given above.

Yet, unless the Orders in Council were repealed, Napoleon's
concessions would not go far to relieve the United States. The vessels
he would admit would be but the gleanings, after British cruisers had
reaped the ocean field. Pinkney, therefore, had to be importunate in
presenting the demands of his Government. Wellesley persisted in his
method of procrastination. At last, on December 4, he wrote briefly to
say that after careful inquiry he could find no authentic intelligence
of the repeal, nor of the restoration of the commerce of neutral
nations to its previous conditions. He invited, however, a fresh
statement from Pinkney, who then, in a letter dated December 10,[333]
argued the case at length, under the three heads of the manner, or
form, the terms, and the practical effect of the alleged repeal.
Having completed the argument, he took incidental occasion to present
the views of the United States concerning the whole system of the
Orders in Council; animadverting severely, and emphasizing with
liberal italics. The Orders went far beyond any intelligible standard
of _retaliation_; but it soon appeared that neutrals might be
permitted to traffic, if they would submit with a dependence _truly
colonial_ to carry on their trade through British ports, to pay such
duties as the British Government might impose, and such charges as
British agents might make. The modification of April 26, 1809, was one
of appearance only. True, neutrals were no longer compelled to enter
British ports; their prohibition from interdicted ports was nominally
absolute; but it was known that by coming to Great Britain they could
obtain a license to enter them, so that the effect was the same; and
by forged papers this license system was so extended "that the
commerce of _England_ could advantageously find its way to those

Wellesley delayed reply till December 29.[335] He regretted the
intrusion of these closing remarks, which might tend to interfere with
a conciliatory spirit, but without further comment on them addressed
himself to the main question. His Government did not find the
"notification" of the repeal of the French Decrees such as would
justify it in recalling the Orders in Council. The United States
having demanded the formal revocation of the blockade of May, 1806, as
well as of the Orders in Council, he "must conclude, combining your
requisition with that of the French Minister, that America demands the
revocation of that order of blockade, as a practical instance of our
renunciation of those principles of blockade which are condemned by
the French Government." This inference seems overstrained; but
certainly much greater substantial concession was required of Great
Britain than of France. Wellesley intimated that this concert of
action was partial--not neutral--between the two belligerents. "I
trust that the justice of the American Government will not consider
that France, by the repeal of her obnoxious decrees, _under such a
condition_,[336] has placed the question in that state which can
warrant America in enforcing the Non-Intercourse Act against Great
Britain, and not against France." He reminded Pinkney of the situation
in which the commerce of neutral nations had been placed by many
recent acts of the French Government; and said that its system of
violence and injustice required some precautions of defence on the
part of Great Britain. In conclusion, his Majesty stood ready to
repeal, when the French Decrees should be repealed without conditions
injurious to the maritime rights and honor of the United Kingdom.

Unhappily for Pinkney's argument on the actuality of Napoleon's
repeal, on the very day of his own writing, December 10, the American
_chargé_[337] in Paris, Jonathan Russell, was sending Champagny a
remonstrance[338] upon the seizure of an American vessel at Bordeaux,
under the decrees of Berlin and Milan, on December 1,--a month after
their asserted repeal. That the Director of Customs at a principal
seaport should understand them to be in force, nearly four months
after the publication of Champagny's letter in the "Moniteur," would
certainly seem to imply some defect in customary form;[339] and the
ensuing measures of the Government would indicate also something
misleading in the terms. Russell told Champagny that, since November
1, the alleged day of repeal, this was the first case to which the
Berlin and Milan Decrees could apply; and lo! to it they were applied.
Yet, "to execute the Act of Congress against the English requires the
previous revocation of the decrees." It was, indeed, ingeniously
argued in Congress, by an able advocate of the Administration, that
all the law required was the revocation in terms of the Decrees; their
subsequent enforcement in act was immaterial.[340] Such a solution,
however, would scarcely content the American people. The French
Government now took a step which clearly showed that the Decrees were
still in force, technically, however honest its purpose to hold to the
revocation, if the United States complied with the conditions.
Instructions to the Council of Prizes,[341] from the proper minister,
directed that the vessel, and any others falling under the same
category of entry after November 1, should "remain suspended" until
after February 2, the period at which the United States should have
fulfilled its obligation. Then they should be restored.

The general trend of argument, pro and con, with the subsequent
events, probably shook the confidence of the Administration, and of
its supporters in Congress, in the certainty of the revocation, which
the President had authenticated by his proclamation. Were the fact
unimpeachable, the law was clear; non-intercourse with Great Britain
would go into effect February 2, without further action. But the
doubts started were so plausible that it was certain any condemnation
or enforcement under the law would be carried up to the highest court,
to test whether the fact of revocation, upon which the operativeness
of the statute turned, was legally established. Even should the court
decline to review the act of the Executive, and accept the
proclamation as sufficient evidence for its own decision, such feeble
indorsement would be mortifying. A supplementary Act was therefore
framed, doing away with the original, and then reviving it, as a new
measure, against Great Britain alone. In presenting this, the member
charged with its introduction said: "The Committee thought proper that
in this case the legislature should step forward and decide; that it
was not consistent with the responsibility they owed the community to
turn over to judicial tribunals the decision of the question, whether
the Non-Intercourse was in force or not."[342] The matter was thus
taken from the purview of the courts, and decided by a party vote.
After an exhausting discussion, this bill passed at 4 A.M., February
28, 1811. It was approved by the President, March 2.

For the settlement of American litigation this course was adequate;
not so for the vindication of international procedure. The United
States at this time had abundant justification for war with both
France and Great Britain, and it was within the righteous decision of
her own policy whether she should declare against either or both; but
it is a serious impeachment of a Government's capacity and manfulness
when, with such questions as Impressment, the Orders in Council,
Napoleon's Decrees, and his arbitrary sequestrations, war comes not
from a bold grappling with difficulties, but from a series of
huckstering attempts to buy off one antagonist or the other, with the
result of being fairly overreached. The outcome, summarily stated, had
been that a finesse of the French Government had attached the United
States to Napoleon's Continental System. She was henceforth, in
effect, allied with the leading feature of French policy hostile to
Great Britain. It was perfectly competent and proper for her so to
attach herself, if she saw fit. The Orders in Council were a national
wrong to her, justifying retaliation and war; still more so was
Impressment. But it is humiliating to see one's country finally
committed to such a step through being outwitted in a paltry bargain,
and the justification of her course rested, not upon a firm assertion
of right, but upon the refusal of another nation to accept a
manifestly unequal proposition. The course of Great Britain was
high-handed, unjust, and not always straightforward; but it was candor
itself alongside of Napoleon's.

There remained but one step to complete the formal breach; and that,
if the writer's analysis has been correct, resulted as directly as did
the final Non-Intercourse Act from action erroneously taken by Mr.
Madison's Administration. Jackson's place, vacated in November, 1809,
by the refusal to communicate further with him, remained still
unfilled. This delay was thought deliberate by the United States
Government, which on May 22 wrote to Pinkney that it seemed to
manifest indifference to the character of the diplomatic intercourse
between the two countries, arising from dissatisfaction at the step
necessarily taken with regard to Mr. Jackson. Should this inference
from Wellesley's inaction prove correct, Pinkney was directed to
return to the United States, leaving the office with a _chargé
d'affaires_, for whom a blank appointment was sent. He was, however,
to exercise his own judgment as to the time and manner. In consequence
of his interview with Wellesley, and in reply to a formal note of
inquiry, he received a private letter, July 22, 1810, saying it was
difficult to enter upon the subject in an official form, but that it
was the Secretary's intention immediately to recommend a successor to
Jackson. Still the matter dragged, and at the end of the year no
appointment had been made.

In other ways, too, there was unexplained delay. In April Pinkney had
received powers to resume the frustrated negotiations committed first
to him and Monroe. Wellesley had welcomed the advance, and had
accepted an order of discussion which gave priority to satisfaction
for the "Chesapeake" affair. After that an arrangement for the
revocation of the Orders in Council should be attempted. On June 13
Pinkney wrote home that a verbal agreement conformable to his
instructions had been reached concerning the "Chesapeake," and that he
was daily expecting a written overture embodying the terms. August 14
this had not been received,--to his great surprise, for Wellesley's
manner had shown every disposition to accommodate. Upon this situation
supervened Cadore's declaration of the revocation of the French
Decrees, Pinkney's acceptance of the fact as indisputable, and his
urgency to obtain from the British Government a corresponding measure
in the repeal of the Orders. Through all ran the same procrastination,
issuing in entire inaction.

Pinkney's correspondence shows a man diplomatically self-controlled
and patient, though keenly sensible to the indignity of unwarrantable
delays. The rough speaking of his mind concerning the Orders in
Council, in his letter of December 10, suggests no loss of temper, but
a deliberate letting himself go. There appeared to him now no
necessity for further endurance. To Wellesley's rejoinder of December
29 he sent an answer on January 14, 1811, "written," he said, "under
the pressure of indisposition, and the influence of more indignation
than could well be suppressed."[343] The questions at issue were again
trenchantly discussed, but therewith he brought to an end his
functions as minister of the United States. Under the same date, but
by separate letter, he wrote that as no steps had been taken to
replace Jackson by an envoy of equal rank, his instructions imposed on
him the duty of informing his lordship that the Government of the
United States could not continue to be represented in England by a
minister plenipotentiary. Owing to the insanity of the King, and the
delays incident to the institution of a regency, his audience of leave
was delayed to February 28; and it is a noticeable coincidence that
the day of this formal diplomatic act was also that upon which the
Non-Intercourse Bill against Great Britain passed the House of
Representatives. In the course of the spring Pinkney embarked in the
frigate "Essex" for the United States. He had no successor until after
the War of 1812, and the Non-Intercourse Act remained in vigor to the
day of hostilities.

On February 15, a month after Pinkney's notification of his intended
departure, Wellesley wrote him that the Prince Regent, whose authority
as such dated only from February 5, had appointed Mr. Augustus J.
Foster minister at Washington. The delay had been caused in the first
instance, "as I stated to you repeatedly," by the wish to make an
appointment satisfactory to the United States, and afterwards by the
state of his Majesty's Government; the regal function having been in
abeyance until the King's incapacity was remedied by the institution
of the Regent. Wellesley suggested the possibility of Pinkney
reconsidering his decision, the ground for which was thus removed; but
the minister demurred. He replied that he inferred, from Wellesley's
letter, that the British Government by this appointment signified its
intention of conceding the demands of the United States; that the
Orders in Council and blockade of May, 1806, would be annulled;
without this a beneficial effect was not to be expected. Wellesley
replied that no change of system was intended unless France revoked
her Decrees. The effect of this correspondence, therefore, was simply
to place Pinkney's departure upon the same ground as the new
Non-Intercourse Act against Great Britain.

Mr. Augustus John Foster was still a very young man, just thirty-one.
He had but recently returned from the position of minister to Sweden,
the duties of which he had discharged[344] during a year very critical
for the fortunes of that country, and in the event for Napoleon and
Europe. Upon his new mission Wellesley gave him a long letter of
instructions,[345] in which he dealt elaborately with the whole course
of events connected with the Orders in Council and Bonaparte's Decree,
especially as connected with America. In this occurs a concise and
lucid summary of the British policy, which is worth quoting. "From
this view of the origin of the Orders in Council, you will perceive
that the object of our system was not to crush the trade of the
continent, but to counteract an attempt to crush British trade; that
we have endeavored to permit the continent to receive as large a
portion of commerce as might be practicable through Great Britain, and
that all our subsequent regulations, and every modification of the
system, by new orders, or modes of granting or withholding licenses,
have been calculated for _the purpose of encouraging the trade of
neutrals through Great Britain_,[346] whenever such encouragement
might appear advantageous to the general interests of commerce and
consistent with the public safety of the nation,--the preservation of
which is the primary object of all national councils, and the
paramount duty of the Executive power."

In brief, the plea was that Bonaparte by armed constraint had forced
the continent into a league to destroy Great Britain through her
trade; that there was cause to fear these measures would succeed, if
not counteracted; that retaliation by similar measures was therefore
demanded by the safety of the state; and that the method adopted was
retaliation, so modified as to produce the least possible evil to
others concerned. It was admitted and deplored that prohibition of
direct trade with the ports of the league injuriously affected the
United States. That this was illegal, judged by the law of nations,
was also admitted; but it was justified by the natural right of
retaliation. Wellesley scouted the view, pertinaciously urged by the
American Government, that the exclusion of British commerce from
neutral continental ports by the Continental System was a mere
municipal regulation, which the United States could not resist.
Municipal regulation was merely the cloak, beneath which France
concealed her military coercion of states helpless against her policy.
"The pretext of municipal right, under which the violence of the enemy
is now exercised against neutral commerce in every part of the
continent, will not be admitted by Great Britain; nor can we ever deem
the repeal of the French Decrees to be effectual, until neutral
commerce shall be restored to the conditions in which it stood,
previously to the commencement of the French system of commercial
warfare, as promulgated in the Decrees."

Foster's mission was to urge these arguments, and to induce the repeal
of the Non-Intercourse law against Great Britain, as partial between
the two belligerents; who, if offenders against accepted law, were in
that offenders equally. The United States was urged not thus to join
Napoleon's league against Great Britain, from which indeed, if so
supported, the direst distress must arise. It is needless to pursue
the correspondence which ensued with Monroe, now Secretary of State.
By Madison's proclamation, and the passage of the Non-Intercourse Act
of March 2, 1811, the American Government was irretrievably committed
to the contention that France had so revoked her Decrees as to
constitute an obligation upon Great Britain and upon the United
States. To admit mistake, even to one's self, in so important a step,
probably passes diplomatic candor, and especially after the blunder in
Erskine's case. Yet, even admitting the adequacy of Champagny's
letter, the Decrees were not revoked; seizures were still made under
them. In November, 1811, Monroe had to write to Barlow, now American
minister to France, "It is not sufficient that it should appear that
the French Decrees are repealed, in the _final decision_ of a cause
brought _before a French tribunal_. An active prohibitory policy
should be adopted _to prevent seizures_ on the principle."[347] This
was in the midst of his correspondence with Foster. The two disputants
threshed over and over again the particulars of the controversy, but
nothing new was adduced by either.[348] Conditions were hopeless, and
war assured, even when Foster arrived in Washington, in June, 1811.

One thing, however, was finally settled. In behalf of his Government,
in reparation for the "Chesapeake" affair, Foster repeated the
previous disavowal of Berkeley's action, and his consequent recall;
and offered to restore to the ship herself the survivors of the men
taken from her. Pecuniary provision for those who had suffered in the
action, or for their families, was also tendered. The propositions
were accepted, while denying the adequacy of Berkeley's removal from
one command to another. The men were brought to Boston harbor, and
there formally given up to the "Chesapeake."

Tardy and insufficient as was this atonement, it was further delayed,
at the very moment of tendering, by an incident which may be said to
have derived directly from the original injury. In June, 1810, a
squadron of frigates and sloops had been constituted under Commodore
John Rodgers, to patrol the coast from the Capes of the Chesapeake
northward to the eastern limit of the United States. Its orders,
generally, were to defend from molestation by a foreign armed ship all
vessels of the United States within the marine league, seaward, to
which neutral jurisdiction was conceded by international law. Force
was to be used, if necessary, and, if the offender were a privateer,
or piratical, she was to be sent in. So weak and unready was the
nominal naval force of the United States, that piracy near her very
shores was apprehended; and concern was expressed in Congress
regarding vessels from Santo Domingo, thus converted into a kind of
local Barbary power. To these general instructions the Secretary of
the Navy attached a special reminder. Recalling the "Chesapeake"
affair, as a merely exaggerated instance of the contumely everywhere
heaped upon the American flag by both belligerents, he wrote: "What
has been perpetrated may be again attempted. It is therefore our duty
to be prepared and determined at every hazard to vindicate the injured
honor of our navy, and revive the drooping spirit of the nation. It is
expected that, while you conduct the force under your command
consistently with the principles of a strict and upright neutrality,
you are to maintain and support at every risk and cost the dignity of
our flag; and that, offering yourself no unjust aggression, you are to
submit to none, not even a menace or threat from a force not
materially your superior."

Under such reminiscences and such words, the ships' guns were like to
go off of themselves. It requires small imagination to picture the
feelings of naval officers in the years after the "Chesapeake's"
dishonor. In transmitting the orders to his captains, Rodgers added,
"Every man, woman, and child, in our country, will be active in
consigning our names to disgrace, and even the very vessels composing
our little navy to the ravages of the worms, or the detestable
transmigration to merchantmen, should we not fulfil their
expectations. I should consider the firing of a shot by a vessel of
war, of either nation, and particularly England, at one of our public
vessels, whilst the colors of her nation are flying on board of her,
as a menace of the grossest order, and in amount an insult which it
would be disgraceful not to resent by the return of two shot at least;
while should the shot strike, it ought to be considered an act of
hostility meriting chastisement to the utmost extent of all your
force."[349] The Secretary indorsed approval upon the copy of this
order forwarded to him. Rodgers' apprehension for the fate of the navy
reflected accurately the hostile views of leaders in the dominant
political party. Demoralized by the gunboat system, and disorganized
and browbeaten by the loud-mouthed disfavor of representative
Congressmen, the extinction of the service was not unnaturally
expected. Bainbridge, a captain of standing and merit, applied at this
time for a furlough to make a commercial voyage to China, owing to
straitened means. "I have hitherto refused such offers, on the
presumption that my country would require my services. That
presumption is removed, and even doubts entertained of the permanency
of our naval establishment."[350]

The following year, 1811, Rodgers' squadron and orders were continued.
The British admirals of adjacent stations, acting doubtless under
orders from home, enjoined great caution upon their ships of war in
approaching the American coast.[351] While set not to relax the Orders
in Council, the ministry did not wish war by gratuitous offence.
Cruising, however, continued, though charged with possibilities of
explosion. Under these circumstances Rodgers' ship, the "President"
frigate, and a British sloop of war, the "Little Belt," sighted each
other on May 16, 1811, fifty miles east of Cape Henry. Independent of
the general disposition of ships of war in troublous times to overhaul
and ascertain the business of any doubtful sail, Rodgers' orders
prescribed the capture of vessels of certain character, even outside
the three-mile limit; and, the "Little Belt" making sail from him, he
pursued. About 8 P.M., it being then full dark, the character and
force of the chase were still uncertain, and the vessels within range.
The two accounts of what followed differ diametrically; but the
British official version[352] is less exhaustive in matter and manner
than the American, which rests upon the sworn testimony of numerous
competent witnesses before a formal Court of Inquiry.[353] By this it
was found proved that the "Little Belt" fired the first gun, which by
Rodgers' statement cut away a backstay and went into the mainmast. The
batteries of both ships opened, and an engagement followed, lasting
twelve or fifteen minutes, during which the "Little Belt," hopelessly
inferior in force, was badly cut up, losing nine killed and
twenty-three wounded. Deplorable as was this result, and whatever
unreconciled doubts may be entertained by others than Americans as to
the blame, there can be no question that the affair was an accident,
unpremeditated. It was clearly in evidence that Rodgers had cautioned
his officers against any firing prior to orders. There was nothing of
the deliberate purpose characterizing the "Chesapeake" affair; yet Mr.
Foster, with the chariness which from first to last marked the British
handling of that business, withheld the reparation authorized by his
instructions until he had received a copy of the proceedings of the

On July 24, 1811, the President summoned Congress to meet November 4,
a month before the usual time, in consequence of the state of foreign
affairs. His message spoke of ominous indications; of the inflexible
hostility evidenced by Great Britain in trampling upon rights which no
independent nation can relinquish; and recommended legislation for
increasing the military force. As regarded the navy, his words were
indefinite and vague, beyond suggesting the expediency of purchasing
materials for ship-building. The debates and action of Congress
reflected the tone of the Executive. War was anticipated as a matter
of course, and mentioned freely in speeches. That the regular army
should be enlarged, and dispositions made for more effective use of
the militia, was granted; the only dispute being about the amount of
development. In this the legislature exceeded the President's wishes,
which were understood, though not expressed in the message. Previous
Congresses had authorized an army of ten thousand, of which not more
than five thousand were then in the ranks. It was voted to complete
this; to add twenty-five thousand more regulars, and to provide for
fifty thousand volunteers. Doubts, based upon past experience, and
which proved well founded, were expressed as to the possibility of
raising so many regular troops, pledged for five years to submit to
the restrictions of military life. It was urged that, in the
economical conditions of the country, the class did not exist from
which such a force could be recruited.

This consideration did not apply to the navy. Seamen could be had
abundantly from the merchant shipping, the activities of which must
necessarily be much curtailed by war with a great naval power.
Nevertheless, the dominance of Jefferson, though in this particular
already shaken, remained upon the mass of his party. The new Secretary
of the Navy was from South Carolina, not reckoned among the commercial
states; but, however influenced, he ventured to intimate doubts as to
the gunboat system. Of one thing there was no doubt. On a gunboat a
gun cost twelve thousand dollars a year; the same on a frigate cost
but four thousand.[354] In the House of Representatives, the strongest
support to the development of the navy as a permanent force came from
the Secretary's state, backed by Henry Clay from Kentucky, and by the
commercial states; the leading representative of which, Josiah Quincy,
expressed, however, a certain diffidence, because in the embittered
politics of the day the mere fact of Federalist support tended rather
to damage the cause.

So much of the President's message as related to the navy--three
lines, wholly non-committal--was referred to a special committee. The
report[355] was made by Langdon Cheves of South Carolina, whose clear
and cogent exposition of the capabilities of the country and the
possibility of providing a force efficient against Great Britain,
under her existing embarrassments, was supported powerfully and
perspicuously by William Lowndes of the same state. The text for their
remarks was supplied by a sentence in the committee's report: "The
important engine of national strength and national security, which is
formed by a naval force, has hitherto been treated with a neglect
highly impolitic, or supported by a spirit so languid, as, while it
has preserved the existence of the establishment, has had the effect
of loading it with the imputations of wasteful expense, and
comparative inefficiency.... Such a course is impolitic under any
circumstances." This was the condemnation of the party's past. Clay
found his delight in dealing with some of the oratory, which on the
present occasion still sustained--and for the moment successfully
sustained--the prepossessions of Jefferson. Carthage, Rome, Venice,
Genoa, were republics with free institutions and great navies;
Carthage, Rome, Venice, and Genoa had lost their liberties, and their
national existence. Clearly navies, besides being very costly, were
fatal to constitutional freedom. Not in reply to such _non sequitur_,
but quickened by an insight which was to receive earlier vindication
than he could have anticipated, Quincy prophesied that, amid the
diverse and contrary interests of the several states, which the lack
of a common object of affection left still imperfectly unified in
sentiment, a glorious navy, identified with the whole country because
of its external action, yet local to no part, would supply a common
centre for the enthusiasm not yet inspired by the central government,
too closely associated for years back with a particular school of
extreme political thought, narrowly territorial and clannish in its
origin and manifestation. Within a twelvemonth, the "Constitution,"
most happily apt of all names ever given to a ship, became the
embodiment of this verified prediction.

The report of the committee was modest in its scope. "To the defence
of your ports and harbors, and the protection of your coasting trade,
should be confined the present objects and operations of any navy
which the United States can, or ought, to have." To this office it was
estimated that twelve ships of the line and twenty frigates would
suffice. Cheves and Lowndes were satisfied that such a fleet was
within the resources of the country; and to insure the fifteen
thousand seamen necessary to man it, they would be willing to limit
the number of privateers,--a most wholesome and necessary provision.
By a careful historical examination of Great Britain's past and
present exigencies, it was shown that such a force would most probably
keep clear the approaches to all American ports, the most critical
zone for shipping, whether inward or outward bound; because, to
counteract it, the enemy would have to employ numbers so largely
superior that they could not be spared from her European conflict. The
argument was sound; but unhappily Cheves, Lowndes, Clay, and Quincy
did not represent the spirit of the men who for ten years had ruled
the country and evolved the gunboat system. These, in their day of
power, not yet fully past, had neither maintained the fleet nor
accumulated material, and there was no seasoned timber to build with.
The Administration which expired in 1801 had left timber for six
74-gun ships, of which now remained only enough for four. The rest had
been wasted in gunboats, or otherwise. The committee therefore limited
its recommendations to building the frigates, for which it was
believed materials could be procured.

Even in this reduced form it proved impossible to overcome the
opposition to a navy as economically expensive and politically
dangerous. The question was amply debated; but as, on the one hand,
little doubt was felt about the rapid conquest of Canada by militia
and volunteers, so, on the other, the same disposition to trust to
extemporized irregular forces encouraged reliance simply upon
privateering. Private enterprise in such a cause undoubtedly has from
time to time attained marked results; but in general effect the method
is a wasteful expenditure of national resources, and, historically,
saps the strength of the regular navy. In the manning of inefficient
privateers--and the majority were inefficient and ineffective--were
thrown away resources of seamen which, in an adequate naval force,
organized and directed as it would have been by the admirable officers
of that period, could have accomplished vastly more in the annoyance
of British trade,--the one offensive naval undertaking left open to
the nation. Even with the assistance of the Federalists the provision
for the frigates could not be carried, though the majority was
narrow--62 to 59. The same fate befell the proposition to provide a
dockyard. All that could be had was an appropriation of six hundred
thousand dollars, distributed over three successive years, for buying
timber. These votes were taken January 27, 1812, in full expectation
of war, and only five months before it was declared.

Early in April, Congress, in secret session, passed an Act of Embargo
for ninety days, which became law on the fourth by the President's
signature. The motive was twofold: to retain at home the ships and
seamen of the nation, in anticipation of war, to keep them from
falling into the hands of the enemy; and also to prevent the carriage
of supplies indispensably necessary to the British armies in Spain.
Both objects were defeated by the action of Quincy, in conjunction
with Senator Lloyd of Massachusetts and Representative Emott of New
York. Learning that the President intended to recommend the embargo,
these gentlemen, as stated by Quincy on the floor of the House,
despatched at once to Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, expresses
which left Washington March 31, the day before Madison's letter was
dated. Four or five days' respite was thus secured, and the whole
mercantile community set zealously to work to counteract the effects
of the measure. "Niles' Register," published in Baltimore, said:
"Drays were working night and day, from Tuesday night, March 31, and
continued their toil till Sunday morning, incessantly. In this
hurly-burly to palsy the arm of the Government all parties united. On
Sunday perhaps not twenty seamen, able to do duty, could be found in
all Baltimore." A New York paper is quoted as saying, "The property
could not have been moved off with greater expedition had the city
been enveloped in flames." From that port forty-eight vessels cleared;
from Baltimore thirty-one; Philadelphia and Alexandria in like
proportions. It was estimated that not less than two hundred thousand
barrels of flour, besides grain in other shapes, and provisions of all
kinds, to a total value of fifteen million dollars, were rushed out of
the country in those five days, when labor-saving appliances were
nearly unknown.[356]

Jonathan Russell, who was now _chargé d'affaires_ at London, having
been transferred from Paris upon the arrival of Armstrong's successor,
Joel Barlow, wrote home, "The great shipments of provisions, which
were hurried from America in expectation of the embargo, have given
the Peninsula a supply for about two months; and at the expiration of
that period the harvest in that region will furnish a stock for about
three months more.... The avidity discovered by our countrymen to
escape from the embargo, and the disregard of its policy, have
encouraged this Government to hope that supplies will still continue
to be received from the United States. The ship 'Lady Madison,' which
left Liverpool in March, has returned thither with a cargo taken in
off Sandy Hook without entering an American port. There are several
vessels now about leaving this country with the intention not only of
procuring a cargo in the same way, but of getting rid, illicitly, of
one they carry out."[357]

It was, indeed, a conspicuous instance of mercantile avidity, wholly
disregardful of patriotic considerations, such as is to be found in
all times and in all countries; strictly analogous to the constant
smuggling between France and Great Britain at this very time. Its
significance in the present case, however, is as marking the
widespread lack of a national patriotism, as distinct from purely
local advantage and personal interests, which unhappily characterized
Americans at this period. Of this Great Britain stood ready to avail
herself, by extending to the United States the system of licenses, by
which, combined with the Orders in Council, she was combating with a
large degree of success Napoleon's Continental System. She hoped, and
the sequel showed not unreasonably, that even during open hostilities
she could in the same manner thwart the United States in its efforts
to keep its own produce from her markets. Less than a fortnight after
the American Declaration of War was received, Russell, who had not yet
left England, wrote to the Secretary of State that the Board of Trade
had given notice that licenses would be granted for American vessels
to carry provisions from the United States to Cadiz and Lisbon, for
the term of eight months; and that a policy had been issued at Lloyds
to a New York firm, insuring flour from that port to the peninsula,
warranted free from British capture, and from capture or detention by
the Government of the United States.[358]

The British armies were thus nourished and dependent, both in Spain
and in Canada. The supplying of the latter scarcely fell short of
treason, and decisively affected the maintenance of the war in that
quarter. It is difficult to demonstrate a moral distinction between
what was done there, disregardful of national success, in shameful
support of the enemy, and the supplying of the peninsula; but an
intuitive sympathy extends to the latter a tolerance which the motives
of the individual agents probably do not deserve, and for which calm
reason cannot give a perfectly satisfactory account. But it was the
misfortune of American policy, as shaped by the Administration, that
it was committed to support Napoleon in his iniquitous attack upon the
liberties of Spain; that it saw in his success the probable fulfilment
of its designs upon the Floridas;[359] and that its chosen ground for
proceeding against Great Britain, rather than France, was her refusal
to conform her action to a statement of the Emperor's, the illusory
and deceptive character of which became continually more apparent.

To declare war because of the Orders in Council was a simple,
straightforward, and wholly justifiable course; but the flying months
made more and more evident, to the Government and its agents abroad,
that it was vain to expect revocation on the ground of Napoleon's
recall of his edicts, for they were not recalled. Having entered upon
this course, however, it seemed impossible to recede, or to
acknowledge a mistake, the pinch of which was nevertheless felt.
Writing to Russell, whose service in Paris, from October, 1810, to
October, 1811, and transfer thence to London, made him unusually
familiar, on both sides of the Channel, with the controversy over
Champagny's letter of August 5, 1810, Madison speaks "of the delicacy
of our situation, having in view, on the one hand, the importance of
obtaining from the French Government confirmation of the repeal of the
Decrees, and on the other that of not weakening the ground on which
the British repeal was urged."[360] That is, it would be awkward to
have the British ministry find out that we were pressing France for a
confirmation of that very revocation which we were confidently
asserting to them to be indisputable, and to require in good faith the
withdrawal of their Orders. Respecting action taken under the
so-called repeal, Russell had written on March 15, 1811, over three
months after it was said to take effect, "By forbearing to condemn, or
to acquit, distinctly and loyally, [the vessels seized since November
1], this Government encourages us to persevere in our non-importation
against England, and England to persist in her orders against us. This
state of things appears calculated to produce mutual complaint and
irritation, and cannot probably be long continued without leading to a
more serious contest, ... which is perhaps an essential object of this
country's policy."[361] July 15, he expressed regret to the Duke of
Bassano, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, that the proceedings
concerning captured American vessels "had been so partial, and
confined to cases which from their peculiar circumstances proved
nothing conclusively in relation to the revocation of the French

Russell might have found some light as to the causes of these delays,
could he have seen a note addressed by the Emperor to the
Administration of Commerce, April 29. In this, renewing the reasoning
of the Bayonne Decree, he argued that every American vessel which
touched at an English port was liable to confiscation in the United
States; consequently, could be seized by an American cruiser on the
open sea; therefore, was equally open to seizure there by a French
cruiser--the demand advanced by Canning[363] which gave such just
offence; and if by a French cruiser at sea, likewise in a French port
by the French Government. She was in fact no longer American, not even
a denationalized American, but an English vessel. Under this
supposition, Napoleon luminously inferred, "It could be said: The
Decrees of Berlin and Milan are recalled as to the United States, but,
as every ship which has stopped in England, or is destined thither, is
a ship unacknowledged (_sans aveu_), which American laws punish and
confiscate, she may be confiscated in France." The Emperor concluded
that should this theory not be capable of substantiation, the matter
might for the present be left obscure.[364] On September 13 the ships
in question had not been liberated.

Coincidently with his note to Bassano, Russell wrote to Monroe, "It is
my conviction that the great object of their policy is to entangle us
in a war with England. They therefore abstain from doing any act which
would furnish clear and unequivocal testimony of the revocation of
their decrees, lest it should induce the extinction of the British
Orders, and thereby appease our irritation against their enemy. Hence,
of all the captured vessels since November 1, the three which were
liberated were precisely those which had not violated the
Decrees."[365] Yet, such were the exigencies of the debate with
England, those three cases were transmitted by him at the same time to
the American _chargé_ in London as evidence of the revocation.[366] To
the French Minister he wrote again, August 8, "After the declarations
of M. de Champagny and yourself, I cannot permit myself to doubt the
revocation; ... but I may be allowed to lament that no fact has yet
come to my knowledge of a character unequivocally and incontrovertibly
to confirm that revocation." "That none of the captured vessels have
been condemned, instead of proving the extinction of the edicts,
appears rather to be evidence, at best, of a commutation of the
penalty from prompt confiscation to perpetual detention."[367] The
matter was further complicated by an announcement of Napoleon to the
Chamber of Commerce, in April of the same year, that the Berlin and
Milan Decrees were the fundamental law of the Empire concerning
neutral commerce, and that American ships would be repelled from
French ports, unless the United States conformed to those decrees, by
excluding British ships and merchandise.[368] Under such conditions,
argument with a sceptical British ministry was attended with
difficulties. The position to which the Government had become reduced,
by endeavoring to play off France and Great Britain against each
other, in order to avoid a war with either, was as perplexing as
humiliating. "Great anxiety,"[369] to which little sympathy can be
extended, was felt in Washington as to the evidence for the actuality
of the repeals.

The situation was finally cleared up by a clever move of the British
Cabinet, forcing Napoleon's hand at a moment when the Orders in
Council could with difficulty be maintained longer against popular
discontent. On March 10, 1812, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs,
in a report to the Senate, reiterated the demands of the Decrees, and
asserted again that, until those demands were conceded by England, the
Decrees must be enforced against Powers which permitted their flags to
be denationalized. The position thus reaffirmed was emphasized by a
requirement for a large increase of the army for this object. "It is
necessary that all the disposable forces of France be available for
sending everywhere where the English flag, and other flags,
denationalized or convoyed by English ships of war, may seek to
enter."[370] No exceptions in favor of the United States being
stated, the British ministry construed the omission as conclusive
proof of the unqualified continuance of the Decrees;[371] and the
occasion was taken to issue an Order in Council, defining the
Government's position, both in the past and for the future. Quoting
the French minister's Report, as removing all doubts of Napoleon's
persistence in the maintenance of a system, "as inconsistent with
neutral rights and independence as it was hostile to the maritime
rights and commercial interests of Great Britain," the Prince Regent
declared that, "if at any time thereafter the Berlin and Milan Decrees
should be absolutely and unconditionally repealed, by some authentic
act of the French Government, publicly promulgated, then the Orders in
Council of January, 1807, and April, 1809, shall without any further
order be, and the same are hereby declared from thenceforth to be,
wholly and absolutely revoked."[372] No exception could be taken to
the phrasing or form of this Order. The wording was precise and
explicit; the time fixed was definite,--the date of the French Repeal;
the manner of revocation was the same as that of promulgation, an
Order in Council observant of all usual formalities.

In substance, this well-timed State Paper challenged Champagny's
letter of August 5, 1810, and the American Non-Importation Act based
upon it. Both these asserted the revocation of the French Decrees. The
British Cabinet, seizing a happy opportunity, asked of the world the
production of the revocation, or else the justification of its own
course. The demand went far to silence the growing discontents at
home, and to embarrass the American Government in the grounds upon
which it had chosen to base its action. It was well calculated also
to disconcert the Emperor, for, unless he did something more definite,
dissension would increase in the United States, where, as Barlow
wrote, "It is well known to the world, for our public documents are
full of it, that great doubts exist, even among our best informed
merchants, and in the halls of Congress itself, whether the Berlin and
Milan Decrees are to this day repealed, or even modified, in regard to
the United States." The sentence is taken from a letter[373] which he
addressed to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, May 1, 1812, when
he had received the recent British Order. He pointed out how astutely
this step was calculated to undo the effect of Champagny's letter, and
to weaken the American Administration at the critical moment when it
was known to be preparing for war. He urged that the French Government
should now make and publish an authentic Act, declaring the Berlin and
Milan Decrees, as relative to the United States, to have ceased in
November, 1810. "Such an act is absolutely necessary to the American
Government; and, though solicited as an accommodation, it may be
demanded as a right. If it was the duty of France to cease to apply
those Decrees to the United States, it is equally her duty to
promulgate it to the world in as formal a manner as we have
promulgated our law for the exclusion of British merchandise. She
ought to declare and publish the non-application of these Decrees in
the same forms in which she enacted the Decrees. The President has
instructed me to propose and press this object."

At last the demand was made which should have been enforced eighteen
months before. After sending the letter, Barlow had "a pretty sharp
conversation" with Bassano, in which he perceived a singular
reluctance to answer his letter. At last the Duke placed before him a
Decree, drawn up in due and customary form, dated a year
before,--April 28, 1811,--declaring that "the Decrees of Berlin and
Milan are definitively, and to date from the first day of November
last, [1810], considered as not having existed in regard to American
vessels."[374] This Decree, Bassano said, had been communicated to
Russell, and also sent to Serrurier, the French minister at
Washington, with orders to convey it to the American Government. Both
Russell and Serrurier denied ever having received the paper.[375]

Barlow made no comment upon the strange manner in which this document
was produced to him, and confined himself to inquiring if it had been
published. The reply could only be, No; a singular admission with
regard to a formal paper a year old, and of such importance to all
concerned. He then asked that a copy might be sent him. Upon receipt,
he at once hastened it to Russell in London, by the sloop of war
"Wasp," then lying in a French port. He wrote, "You will doubtless
render an essential service to both Great Britain and the United
States by communicating it without loss of time to the Foreign
Secretary. If by this the cause of war should be removed, there is an
obvious reason for keeping the secret, if possible, so long as that
the "Wasp" may not bring the news to this country in any other manner
but in your despatch. This Government, as you must long have
perceived, wishes not to see that effect produced; and I should not
probably have obtained the letter and documents from the Minister, if
the Prince Regent's Declaration had not convinced this Government that
the war was now become inevitable."[376]

Russell transmitted the Decree to the British Foreign Secretary May
20, 1812. The Government was at the moment in confusion, through the
assassination, May 11, of Mr. Perceval, the Prime Minister; who,
though not esteemed of the first order of statesmanship by his
contemporaries and colleagues, had been found in recent negotiations
the only available man about whom a cabinet could unite. A period of
suspense followed, in which the difficulty of forming a new
government, owing to personal antagonisms, was complicated by radical
differences as to public policy, especially in the cardinal point of
pursuing or relinquishing the war in the peninsula. Not till near the
middle of June was an arrangement reached. The same ministry,
substantially, remained in power, with Lord Liverpool as premier;
Castlereagh continuing as Foreign Secretary. This retained in office
the party identified with the Orders in Council, and favoring armed
support to the Spanish revolt.

The delay in settling the government afforded an excuse for postponing
action upon the newly discovered French Decree. It permitted also time
for reflection. Just before Perceval's death, Russell had noted a firm
determination to maintain the Orders in Council, conditioned only by
the late Declaration of April 21; but at the same time there was
evident apprehension of the consequences of war with the United
States.[377] This, he carefully explained, was due to no apprehension
of American military power. Even Lord Grenville, one of the chief
leaders of the Opposition, was satisfied that the United States could
not conquer Canada. "We are, indeed, most miserably underrated in
Europe." "It is not believed here, notwithstanding the spirited report
of the Committee on Foreign Relations, that we shall resort to any
definitive measures. We have indeed a reputation in Europe for saying
so much and doing so little that we shall not be believed in earnest
until we act in a manner not to be mistaken." "I am persuaded this
Government has presumed much on our weakness and divisions, and that
it continues to believe that we have not energy and union enough to
make effective war. Nor is this confined to the ministry, but extends
to the leaders of the Opposition." "Mr. Perceval is well known to
calculate with confidence that even in case of war we shall be obliged
to resort to a license trade for a supply of British manufactures."
"He considers us incapable even of bearing the privations of a state
of hostility with England, and much more incapable of becoming a
formidable enemy." On March 3 Perceval in a debate in the House had
indicated the most positive intentions of maintaining the Orders, and
asserted that, in consequence of Napoleon's Decrees, Great Britain was
no longer restrained by the law of nations in the extent or form of
retaliation to which she may resort upon the enemy. "I cannot perceive
the slightest indication of apprehension of a rupture with the United
States, or any measure of preparation to meet such an event. Such is
the conviction of our total inability to make war that the five or six
thousand troops now in Canada are considered to be amply sufficient to
protect that province against our mightiest efforts."[378] A
revolution of sentiment was to be noted even in the minds of former
advocates. Castlereagh, at a levee on March 12, said to Russell that
the movements in the United States appeared to him to be nothing but
party evolutions.

There was, however, another side to the question which occasioned more
concern to the British ministry. "It is the increasing want of our
intercourse," wrote Russell May 9, "rather than the apprehension of
our arms which leads to a conciliatory spirit" which he had recently
noticed. "They will endeavor to avoid the calamity of war with the
United States by every means which can save their pride and their
consistency. The scarcity of bread in this country, the distress of
the manufacturing towns, and the absolute dependency of the allied
troops in the Peninsula on our supplies, form a check on their conduct
which they can scarcely have the hardihood to disregard."[379] Two
days after these words were written, the murder of Perceval added
political anarchy to the embarrassments of the Government. The crisis
then impending was indeed momentous. War between France and Russia was
certain. Upon its outcome depended the fall of the Continental System,
or its prevalence over all Europe in an extent and with a rigor never
yet reached. "Some of the Powers of Europe," said the Emperor, "have
not fulfilled their promise with respect to the Continental System. I
must force them to it." In carrying this message to the Senate, the
Minister of Foreign Affairs said: "In whatever port of Europe a
British ship can enter there must be a French garrison to prevent
it;"[380] an interesting commentary upon the neutral regulations to
which the United States professed that neither she nor Great Britain
had any claim to object, because municipal. Great Britain had already
touched ruin too nearly to think lightly of the conditions. By her
Orders in Council she had so retorted Napoleon's Decrees as to induce
him, in order still further to enforce them, into the Peninsular War,
and now into that with Russia. To uphold the latter, her busy
negotiators, profiting by his high-handedness, had obtained for the
Czar peace with Sweden and Turkey. More completely to sustain him, it
was essential to support in fullest effect the powerful diversion
which retained three hundred thousand French troops in Spain. To do
this, the assistance of American food supplies was imperative.

If peace with the United States could be maintained, the triumph of
British diplomacy would be unqualified. The announcement of the
alleged Decree of April 28, 1811, came therefore most opportunely to
save their pride and self-consistency. On June 23 Castlereagh
transmitted to Russell an Order in Council published that day,
revoking as to the United States the celebrated Orders of January 7,
1807, and April 26, 1809. "I am to request you," ran his letter, "that
you will acquaint your Government that the Prince Regent's ministers
have taken _the earliest opportunity, after the resumption of the
Government_, to advise his Royal Highness to the adoption of a measure
grounded upon the document communicated by you to this office on the
20th ultimo;"[381] that is upon the Decree of April 28. No one
affected to believe that this had been framed at the date it bore.
"There was something so very much like fraud on the face of it," wrote
Russell, "that in several conversations which I have since had with
Lord Castlereagh, particularly at a dinner at the Lord Mayor's, when I
was placed next his lordship, I have taken care not to commit the
honor of my Government by attempting its vindication. When his
lordship called it a strange proceeding, a new specimen of French
diplomacy, a trick unworthy of a civilized government, I have merely
replied that the motives or good faith of the Government which issued
it, or the real time when it was issued, were of little importance as
to the effect which it ought to have here; that it was sufficient that
it contained a most precise and formal declaration that the Berlin and
Milan Decrees were revoked, in relation to America, from November 1,

This was true; but the contention of the British Government had been
that the system of the Decrees was one whole; that its effect upon
America could not be dissociated from that upon continental neutral
states, where it was enforced under the guise of municipal
regulations; and that it must be revoked as a whole, in order to
impose the repeal of the Orders in Council. This position had been
reaffirmed in the recent Order of April 21. Opinion will therefore
differ as to the ministry's success in escaping, under the cover of
the new Decree, from the dilemma in which they were placed by the
irresistible agitation against the Orders in Council spreading through
the nation, and the necessity of avoiding war with the United States,
if possible, because of the affairs of the Peninsula. They made the
best of it by alleging, as it were, the spirit of the Order of April
21; the disposition "to take such measures as may tend to re-establish
the intercourse between neutral and belligerent nations upon its
accustomed principles." For this reason, while avowing explicitly that
the tenor of the Decree did not meet the requirements of the late
Order, the Orders in Council were revoked from August 1 next
following; and vessels captured after May 20, the date of Russell's
communicating the Decree, would be released. The ministry thus receded
gracefully under compulsion; and for their own people at least saved
their face.

Superficially the British diplomatic triumph for the moment seemed
complete. They had withdrawn their head from the noose just as it
began to tighten; and they had done so not on any ground of stringent
requirement, but with expressions of desire to go even farther than
their just claims, in order to promote conciliation. Russell naturally
felt a moment of bitter discomfiture. "In yielding, the ministers
appear to have been extremely perplexed in seeking for a subterfuge
for their credit. All their feelings and all their prejudices revolted
at the idea of publicly bending to the Opposition, or truckling to the
United States, and they were compelled to seize on the French Decree
of April 28, 1811, as the only means of saving themselves from the
degradation of acknowledging that they were vanquished. Without this
decree they would have been obliged to yield, and I almost regret that
it existed to furnish a salvo, miserable as it is, for their pride.
Our victory, however, is still complete, and I trust that those who
have refused to support our Government in the contest will at least be
willing to allow it the honors of a triumph."[383]

Russell wrote under the mistaken impression that the repeal of the
Orders had come in time to save war; in which event the yielding of
the British ministry, identified as it was with the Orders in Council,
might be construed as a triumph for the system of peaceable coercion,
by commercial restrictions, which formed the whole policy of Jefferson
and Madison. The triumph claimed by him must be qualified, however, by
the reflection that it was obtained at the expense of becoming the
dupe of a French deception, on its face so obvious as to deprive
mistake of the excuse of plausibility. The eagerness of the
Government, and of its representatives abroad, for a diplomatic
triumph, had precipitated them into a step for which, on the grounds
taken, no justification existed; and they had since then been dragged
at the wheels of Napoleon's chariot, in a constant dust of
mystification, until he had finally achieved the end of his scheming
and landed them in a war for which they were utterly unprepared, and
which it had been the chief object of commercial reprisals to avoid.
Thus considered, the triumph was barren.

On June 1, 1812, President Madison sent to Congress a message,[384]
reciting the long list of international wrongs endured at the hands of
Great Britain, and recommending to the deliberations of Congress the
question of peace or war. On June 4 the House of Representatives, by a
vote of seventy-nine yeas to forty-nine nays, declared that a state of
war existed between the United States and Great Britain. The bill then
went to the Senate, where it was discussed, amended, and passed on
June 17, by nineteen yeas to thirteen nays. The next day the House
concurred in the Senate's amendments, and the bill thus passed
received the President's signature immediately. The war thus began,
formally, on June 18, 1812, five days before the repeal of the British
Orders in Council.

While the Declaration of War was still under debate, the Secretary of
War, Eustis, on June 8 reported to the Senate that of the ten thousand
men authorized as a peace establishment, there were in service six
thousand seven hundred and forty-four. He was unable to state what
number had been enlisted of the twenty-five thousand regulars provided
by the legislation of the current session; a singular exhibition of
the efficiency of the Department. He had no hesitation, however, in
expressing an unofficial opinion that there were five thousand of
these recruits. It is scarce necessary to surmise what the condition
of the army was likely to be, with James Wilkinson as the senior
general officer of consecutive service, and with Dearborn, a man of
sixty, and in civil life ever since the War of Independence, as the
first major-general appointed under the new legislation. The navy had
a noble and competent body of officers, in the prime of life, a large
proportion of whom had seen instructive service in the Barbary
conflict; but, as has been seen, Congress had no faith in a navy, and
refused it any increase. In this distrust the Administration shared.

Mr. Monroe, indeed, probably through his residence abroad, had
attained a juster view of the influence of a navy on foreign
relations. He has already been quoted in this connection,[385] but in
a letter to a friend, two years before 1812, he developed his opinions
with some precision. "I gave my opinion that our naval force ought to
be increased. In advising this, I urged that the naval force of the
United States ought not to be regulated by reference to the navies of
the Great Powers, but to the strength of the squadrons which they
usually stationed in time of war on our coasts, at the mouths of great
rivers, and in our harbors. I thought that such a force, incorporated
permanently with our system, would give weight at all times to our
negotiations, and by means thereof prevent wars and save money."[386]
Monroe at this time was not in the Administration. Such a policy was
diametrically opposed to that of Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin; and
when war came, ships had not been provided. Under the circumstances
the disposition of the Government was to put the ships they had under
a glass case.

"At the commencement of the war," wrote Monroe to Jefferson, "I was
decidedly of your opinion, that the best disposition which could be
made of our little navy would be to keep it in a body in a safe port,
from which it might sally, only on some important occasion, to render
essential service. Its safety, in itself, appeared an important
object; as, while safe, it formed a check on the enemy in all
operations along our coast, and increased proportionately his
expense, in the force to be kept up, as well to annoy our commerce as
to protect his own. The reasoning against this, in which all naval
officers have agreed, is that, if stationed together in a port,--New
York, for example,--the British would immediately block up this, by a
force rather superior, and then harass our coast and commerce, without
restraint, and with any force, however small. In that case a single
frigate might, by cruising along the coast, and menacing continually
different parts, keep in motion great bodies of militia; that, while
our frigates are at sea, the expectation that they may be met together
will compel the British to keep in a body, whenever they institute a
blockade or cruise, a force equal at least to our own whole force;
that they, [the American vessels] being the best sailors, hazard
little by cruising separately, or together occasionally, as they might
bring on an action, or avoid one, as they saw fit; that in that
measure they would annoy the enemy's commerce wherever they went,
excite alarm in the West Indies and elsewhere, and even give
protection to our own trade by drawing the enemy's squadron from our
own coast.... The reasoning in favor of each plan is so nearly equal
that it is hard to say which is best."[387] It is to be hoped that the
sequel will show which was best, although little can be hoped when
means, military and naval, have been allowed to waste as they had
under the essentially unmilitary Administrations since 1801.

On November 25, 1811, seven months before the war began, the Secretary
of the Treasury, Gallatin, communicated to the Senate a report on the
State of the Finances,[388] in which he showed that since 1801, by
economies which totally crippled the war power of the nation, the
public debt had been diminished from $80,000,000 to $34,000,000,--a
saving of $46,000,000, which lessened the annual interest on the debt
by $2,000,000. A good financial showing, doubtless; but, had there
been on hand the troops and the ships, which the saved money
represented, the War of 1812 might have had an issue more satisfactory
to national retrospect. Gallatin also showed, in this paper, that by
the restrictive system, enforced against Great Britain in consequence
of the Administration's decision that Napoleon's revocation of his
Decrees was real, the revenue had dropped from $12,000,000 to
$6,000,000; leaving the nation with a probable deficiency of
$2,000,000, on the estimate of a year of peace for 1812.


[172] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 152.

[173] Ibid., p. 147.

[174] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 290.

[175] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. ii. p. 488.

[176] That is, as restrictive of neutral shipping.

[177] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 410.

[178] Wellesley, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to Pinkney, Dec. 29,
1810; also, Feb. 11, 1811. American State Papers, Foreign Relations,
vol. iii. pp. 409, 412. See also Sir Wm. Scott, in the Court of
Admiralty, Ibid., p. 421.

[179] Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire,
chaps. xvii., xviii.

[180] Declaration of the King's reservations, Dec. 31, 1806. American
State Papers, vol. iii. p. 152.

[181] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 159.

[182] Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates, vol. x. p. 1274.

[183] Aug. 12, 1805. American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol.
iii. p. 104.

[184] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 158.

[185] Jonathan Russell to the Secretary of State, Nov. 15, 1811. U.S.
State Department MSS.

[186] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 154,

[187] Ibid., p. 166.

[188] The British Commissioners to Monroe and Pinkney, Nov. 8, 1806.
Ibid., p. 140.

[189] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 187.

[190] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 188.
Author's italics.

[191] Monroe to Madison, Aug. 4, 1807. American State Papers, Foreign
Relations, vol. iii. p. 186.

[192] That is, all vessels, including merchantmen.

[193] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 183-185.
Author's italics.

[194] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 191-193.

[195] American State Papers, vol. iii. pp. 199, 200.

[196] American State Papers, vol. iii. p. 202. Author's italics.

[197] Ibid., Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 201.

[198] Ibid., p. 202.

[199] Ibid., p. 203.

[200] The principal part of the correspondence between Rose and
Madison will be found in American State Papers, Foreign Relations,
vol. iii. pp. 213-220. Rose's instructions from Canning were first
published by Mr. Henry Adams, History of the United States, vol. iv.
pp. 178-182. They were of a character that completely justify the
caution of the American Government in refusing to go further without
knowing their contents, concerning which, indeed, Madison wrote that a
glimpse had been obtained in the informal interviews, which showed
their inadmissibility. Madison to Pinkney, Feb. 19, 1808, U.S. State
Department MSS.

[201] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 300.

[202] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 200.

[203] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 243.

[204] Ibid., pp. 244-245.

[205] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 243.

[206] Armstrong to Smith, U.S. Secretary of State, Jan. 28, 1810.
Ibid., p. 380. Author's italics.

[207] American State Papers, vol. iii. p. 380. Author's italics.

[208] Barlow to Bassano, Nov. 10, 1811. U.S. State Department MSS.
Author's italics.

[209] Barlow to Monroe, Dec. 19, 1811. U.S. State Department MSS.

[210] Feb. 22, 1808. American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol.
iii. p. 206.

[211] Giles, Annals of Congress, 1808-09, pp. 123-125.

[212] N.Y. Evening Post, May 12, 1808.

[213] Jefferson, under date of Nov. 15, 1807, alludes to such a
report. (Jefferson's Works, vol. v. p. 211.) Already, indeed, on Aug.
19, 1807, an Order in Council, addressed to vessels bearing the
neutral flags of Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, Papenburg, or Kniphausen, had
been issued, which, though brief, imposed precisely the same
restrictions as the later celebrated ones here under discussion.
(Annual Register, 1807, State Papers, p. 730; Naval Chronicle, vol.
xviii. p. 151.) The fact is interesting, as indicative of the date of
formulating a project, for the execution of which the "Horizon"
decision probably afforded the occasion.

[214] Erskine's communication was dated Feb. 23, 1808. (American State
Papers, vol. iii. p. 209.) Pinkney, however, had forwarded a copy of
the Orders on November 17. (Ibid., p. 203.) Canning's letter, of which
Erskine's was a transcript, was dated Dec. 1, 1807. (British Foreign
Office Archives.)

[215] Senator Giles of Virginia. Annals of Congress, 1808-09, p. 218.

[216] The following are instances: Philadelphia, February 23. The ship
"Venus," King, hence to the Isle of France, has returned to port.
January 17, Lat. 25° N., Long. 34° W., fell in with an English
merchant fleet of thirty-six sail, under convoy of four ships of war.
Was boarded by the sloop of war "Wanderer," which endorsed on all her
papers, forbidding to enter any port belonging to France or her
allies, they all being declared in a state of blockade. Captain King
therefore put back. (N.Y. Evening Post, Feb. 24, 1808.) Salem, Mass.,
February 23. Arrived bark "Active," Richardson. Sailed hence for
Malaga, December 12. January 2, Lat. 37° N., Long. 17° W., boarded by
a British cruiser, and papers endorsed against entering any but a
British port. The voyage being thus frustrated, Captain Richardson
returned. Marblehead, February 29. Schooner "Minerva" returned, having
been captured under the Orders in Council, released, and come home.
Ship "George," from Amsterdam, arrived at New York, March 6, via
Yarmouth. Was taken by an English cruiser into Yarmouth and there
cleared. (Evening Post, March 6.)

[217] N.Y. Evening Post, March 24, 1808.

[218] Letter of John Quincy Adams to Harrison Gray Otis.

[219] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 245.
Author's italics.

[220] Correspondence of Thomas Barclay, p. 272.

[221] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 206.

[222] "We expected, too, some effect from coercion of interest."
(Jefferson to Armstrong, March 5, 1809. Works, vol. v. p. 433.) "The
embargo is the last card we have to play short of war." (Jefferson to
Madison, March 11, 1808. Ibid., p. 258.) "The coercive experiment we
have made." (Monroe to John Taylor. Works, vol. v. p. 89.) "I place
immense value on the experiment being fully made how far an Embargo
may be an _effectual weapon_ in future, as well as on this occasion."
(Jefferson. Works, vol. v. p. 289.) "Bonaparte ought to be
particularly satisfied with us, by whose unyielding adherence to
principle England has been forced into the revocation of her Orders."
(Jefferson to Madison, April 27, 1809. Works, vol. v. p. 442.) This
revocation was not actual, but a mistake of the British minister at
Washington. "I have always understood that there were two objects
contemplated by the Embargo Laws. The first, precautionary; the
second, coercive, operating upon the aggressive belligerents, by
addressing strong appeals to the interests of both." (Giles of
Virginia, in Senate, Nov. 24, 1808.) "The embargo is not designed to
affect our own citizens, but to make an impression in Europe."
(Williams of South Carolina, in House of Representatives, April 14,

[223] The writer, in a previous work (Sea Power in the French
Revolution), believes himself to have shown that the losses by capture
of British traders did not exceed two and one half per cent.

[224] Letter to Otis.

[225] To Thomas Paine, concerning an improved gunboat devised by him.
Sept. 6, 1807. (Jefferson's Works, vol. v. p. 189.)

[226] Jefferson's Works, vol. v. pp. 417, 426.

[227] June 14, 1809. Works, vol. v. p. 455.

[228] An American ship putting into England, leaky, reported that on
Dec. 18, 1807, she had been boarded by a French privateer, which
allowed her to proceed because bound to Holland. The French captain
said he had captured four Americans, all sent into Passage, in Spain;
and that his orders were to bring in all Americans bound to English
ports. (N.Y. Evening Post, March 1, 1808.) This was under the Berlin
Decree, as that of Milan issued only December 17. The Berlin Decree
proclaimed the British Islands under blockade, but Napoleon for a time
reserved decision as to the mere act of sailing for them being an
infringement. Mr. James Stephen, in Parliament, stated that in 1807
several ships, not less than twenty-one, he thought, were taken for
the mere fact of sailing between America and England; in consequence,
insurance on American vessels rose 50 per cent, from 2-½ to 3-¾.
(Parliamentary Debates, vol. xiii. p. xxxix. App.) In the Evening Post
of March 3, 1808, will be found, quoted from a French journal, cases
of four vessels carried into France, apparently only because bound to

[229] Henry Adams's History of the United States, vol. v. p. 242.

[230] "Nothing can establish firmly the republican principles of our
government but an establishment of them in England. France will be the
apostle for this." (Jefferson's Works, vol. iv. p. 192.) "The
subjugation of England would be a general calamity. Happily it is
impossible. Should invasion end in her being only republicanized, I
know not on what principles a true republican of our country could
lament it." (Ibid., p. 217; Feb. 23, 1798.)

[231] Jefferson to Richard M. Johnson, March 10, 1808. Works, vol. v.
p. 257.

[232] London Times of August 6, quoted in N.Y. Evening Post of Oct.
10, 1808.

[233] Annals of Congress, 1808-09, p. 1032.

[234] Captains' Letters, U.S. Navy Department MSS. Jan. 11, 1808.

[235] Thomas Barclay's Correspondence, p. 274. Author's italics.

[236] N.Y. Evening Post, Sept. 1, 1808.

[237] Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates, vol. xii. p. 326.

[238] Life of Sir William Parker, vol. i. p. 304.

[239] Barlow to Bassano, Nov. 10, 1811. U.S. State Department MSS.

[240] N.Y. Evening Post, Feb. 18, June 30, 1808; Feb. 24, 1809.

[241] Senator White of Delaware. Annals of Congress, 1808-09, p. 52.

[242] Works, vol. v. p. 336.

[243] "Trinidad, July 1, 1808. We have just received 15,000 barrels of
flour from Passamaquoddy, and not a week passes but some drops in from
Philadelphia, Norfolk, etc. Cargo of 1,000 barrels would not now
command more than twelve dollars; a year ago, eighteen." (N.Y. Evening
Post, July 25.)

[244] N.Y. Evening Post, Jan. 17, 1809.

[245] Ibid., February 6.

[246] Mitchill of N.Y. Annals of Congress, 1808-09, pp. 86, 92.

[247] Jefferson's Works, vol. v. pp. 298, 318.

[248] N.Y. Evening Post, Aug. 31, 1808.

[249] Feb. 17, 1812. Captains' Letters, U.S. Navy Department MSS.

[250] American State Papers, Finance, vol. ii. p. 306.

[251] With flour varying at short intervals from $30 to $18, and $12,
a barrel, it is evident that speculation must be rife, and also that
only general statements can be made as to conditions over any length
of time.

[252] Orchard Cook, of Massachusetts, said in the House of
Representatives that 590 vessels sailed thus by permission. Annals of
Congress, 1808-09, p. 1250.

[253] N.Y. Evening Post, Oct. 3, 1808.

[254] Ibid., Sept. 2, 1808.

[255] N.Y. Evening Post, Feb. 28, 1809.

[256] Ibid., Sept. 21, 1808.

[257] Ibid., Dec. 8, 1808.

[258] Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates, vol. xii. p. 1194.

[259] Lord Grenville in House of Lords. Ibid., p. 780.

[260] N.Y. Evening Post, June 28, 1808.

[261] Ibid., April 8.

[262] Ibid., June 28.

[263] Ibid., October 27. The same effect, though on a much smaller
scale, was seen in France. Deprived, through the joint operation of
the embargo and the Orders in Council, of colonial produce brought by
Americans, a number of vessels were fitted out, and armed as letters
of marque, to carry on this trade. These adventures were very
successful, though they by no means filled the void caused by the
absence of American carriers. See Evening Post of Dec. 29, 1808, and
March 22 and 28, 1809. One of these, acting on her commission as a
letter of marque, captured an American brig, returning from India,
which was carried into Cayenne and there condemned under the Milan
Decree. Ibid., Dec. 6, 1808.

[264] N.Y. Evening Post, Nov. 23, 1808.

[265] For some instances see: Annals of Congress, 1808-09, p. 428;
N.Y. Evening Post, Feb. 5, 8, 12; May 13; Aug. 26; Sept. 27, 1808.
Gallatin, in a report dated Dec. 10, 1808, said, "At no time has there
been so much specie, so much redundant unemployed capital in the
country;" scarcely a token of prosperity in so new a country.
(American State Papers, Finance, vol. ii. p. 309.)

[266] American State Papers, Finance, vol. ii. pp. 307, 373, 442. The
second figure is an average of the two years, 1808, 1809, within which
fell the fifteen months of embargo.

[267] Ibid., p. 309 (Dec. 10, 1808).

[268] "The schooner 'John,' Clayton, from La Guayra, with two hundred
thousand pounds of coffee, has been seized at Leghorn, and it was
expected would be condemned under the Bayonne Decree. The 'John'
sailed from Baltimore for La Guayra, by permission, under the fourth
supplementary Embargo Act. By some means or other she found her way to
Leghorn, where it was vainly hoped she might safely dispose of her
cargo." (N.Y. Evening Post, Dec. 20, 1808.) "The frigate 'Chesapeake,'
Captain Decatur, cruising in support of the embargo, captured off
Block Island the brig 'Mount Vernon' and the ship 'John' loaded with
provisions. Of these the former, at least, is expressly stated to have
cleared 'in ballast,' by permission." (Ibid., Aug. 15, 1808.)

[269] Two or three quotations are sufficient to illustrate a condition
notorious at the time. "Jamaica. Nine Americans came with the June
fleet, (from England) with full cargoes. At first it was thought these
vessels would not be allowed to take cargoes, (because contrary to
Navigation Act); but a little reflection taught the Government better.
Rum is the surplus crop of Jamaica, and to keep on hand that which
they do not want is too much our way (_i.e._ embargo). The British
admiral granted these vessels convoy without hesitation, which saved
them from five to seven and one half percent in insurance." (N.Y.
Evening Post, Aug. 2, 1808.) "Gibraltar. A large number of American
vessels are in these seas, sailing under license from Great Britain,
to and from ports of Spain, without interruption. Our informant sailed
in company with eight or ten, laden with wine and fruit for England."
(Ibid., June 30.) Senator Hillhouse, of Connecticut: "Many of our
vessels which were out when the embargo was laid have remained out.
They have been navigating under the American flag, and have been
constantly employed, at vast profit." (Annals of Congress, 1808, p.

[270] "At Gibraltar, between January 1 and April 15, eight vessels
were sent in for breach of the Orders, of which seven were condemned."
(N.Y. Evening Post, May 25, 1808.) "Baltimore, Sept. 30. 1808. Arrived
brig. 'Sophia' from Rotterdam, July 28, _via_ Harwich, England.
Boarded by British brig 'Phosphorus', and ordered to England. After
arrival, cargo (of gin) gauged, and a duty exacted of eight pence
sterling per gallon. Allowed to proceed, with a license, after paying
duty. In company with the 'Sophia', and sent in with her, were three
vessels bound for New York, with similar cargoes." (Ibid., Oct. 3.)
"American ship 'Othello,' from New York for Nantes, with assorted
cargo. Ship, with thirty hogsheads of sugar condemned on ground of
violating blockade;" _i.e._ Orders in Council. (Naval Chronicle, vol.
xx. p. 62.) Besides the 'Othello' there are two other cases, turning
on the Orders, by compliance or evasion. From France came numerous
letters announcing condemnations of vessels, because boarded by
British cruisers. (N.Y. Evening Post, Sept. 10, Oct. 5, Oct. 27, Dec.
6, Dec. 10, 1808; March 17, 1809.) Proceedings were sometimes even
more peremptory. More than one American vessel, though neutral, was
burned or sunk at sea, as amenable under Napoleon's decrees. (Ibid.,
Nov. 3 and Nov. 5, Dec. 10, 1808.) See also affidavits in the case of
the "Brutus", burned, and of the "Bristol Packet", scuttled. (Ibid.,
April 5 and April 7, 1808.)

[271] Hillhouse in the Senate (Annals of Congress, 1808, p. 172), and
Cook, of Massachusetts, in the House. "Of about five hundred and
ninety which sailed, only eight or ten have been captured." (Ibid.,
1808-09, p. 1250.) Yet many went to Guadaloupe and other forbidden
French islands. At Saint Pierre, Martinique, in the middle of
September, were nearly ninety American vessels. "Flour, which had been
up to fifty dollars per barrel, fell to thirty dollars, in consequence
of the number of arrivals from America." (N.Y. Evening Post, Sept. 20,
1808.) This shows how the permission to sail "in ballast" was abused.

[272] N.Y. Evening Post, Sept. 7, 1808.

[273] Annals of Congress, 1808-09, p. 406.

[274] N.Y. Evening Post, May 4 and 13, 1808.

[275] For the text of the Act see Annals of Congress, 1808-09, pp.

[276] Ibid., p. 233.

[277] Giles of Virginia. Annals of Congress, 1808-09, pp. 353-381.

[278] Williams of South Carolina. Annals of Congress, 1808-09, p.

[279] Nelson of Maryland. Annals of Congress, 1808-09, p. 1258.

[280] Annals of Congress, 1808-09, pp. 1438-1439.

[281] Monroe to Jefferson, Jan. 18 and Feb. 2, 1809. Monroe's Works,
vol. v. pp. 91, 93-95.

[282] To John Taylor, January 9. Ibid., p. 89.

[283] Pinkney, in connection with these, speaks of the "expected" Act
of Congress. American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p.

[284] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 299.

[285] This sentence was omitted in the papers when submitted to

[286] State Papers, p. 300.

[287] February 7, 1810. American State Papers, Commerce and
Navigation, vol. i. p. 812.

[288] The correspondence between Erskine and the Secretary of State on
this occasion is in American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol.
iii. pp. 295-297.

[289] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 304-308.

[290] Ibid., p. 303.

[291] Ibid.

[292] Ibid., p. 301.

[293] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 241.

[294] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 318.

[295] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 308-319.

[296] Author's italics.

[297] See Madison's Works, vol. ii. p. 499.

[298] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. 319-322.

[299] The italics in this quotation (American State Papers, vol. iii.
p. 300) are introduced by the author, to draw attention to the words
decisive to be noted.

[300] The italics are Smith's. They serve exactly, however, to
illustrate just wherein consists the perverseness of omission (the
words "operation of"), and the misstatement of this remarkable

[301] Secretary Smith subsequently stated that this sentence was added
by express interposition of the President. (Smith's Address to the
American people.)

[302] Canning in his instructions to Jackson (No. 1, July 1, 1809,
Foreign Office MSS.) wrote: "The United States cannot have _believed_
that such an arrangement as Mr. Erskine consented to accept was
conformable to his instructions. _If_ Mr. Erskine availed himself of
the liberty allowed to him of communicating those instructions in the
affair of the Orders in Council, they must have _known_ that it was
not so." My italics.

[303] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 352.

[304] Writings of James Madison. Published by Order of Congress, 1865.
Vol. ii. p. 439.

[305] Ibid., p. 440. Turreau was the French minister.

[306] Works of Jefferson, vol. v. pp. 442-445.

[307] "When Lord Wellesley's answer speaks of the offence imputed to
Jackson, it does not say he gave no such cause of offence, but simply
relied on his repeated asseverations that he did not mean to offend."
Pinkney to Madison, Aug. 13, 1810. Wheaton's Life of Pinkney, p. 446.

[308] Annals of Congress, 1809-10.

[309] Ibid., January 8, 1810, pp. 1164, 1234.

[310] Ibid., p. 1234.

[311] Annals of Congress, 1809-10, pp. 754, 755.

[312] Ibid., pp. 606, 607.

[313] Annals of Congress, 1810, p. 2582.

[314] For Armstrong's letter and the text of the Decree, see American
State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 384.

[315] Armstrong to Champagny, March 10, 1810. American State Papers,
Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 382.

[316] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 362.

[317] Ibid., p. 385.

[318] Ibid.

[319] The Secretary of State to Armstrong, June 5, 1810. American
State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 385.

[320] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 386.

[321] Ibid., p. 387.

[322] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 364.

[323] Ibid., p. 365.

[324] Jefferson to Madison, April 27, 1809. Works, vol. v. p. 442.

[325] Correspondance de Napoléon. Napoleon to Champagny, July 31, and
August 2, 1810, vol. xx. p. 644, and vol. xxi. p. 1.

[326] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 209.
Author's italics.

[327] Canning to Erskine, Dec. 1, 1807, transmitting the Orders in
Council of November 11. British Foreign Office MSS.

[328] Monroe to Foster, Oct. 1, 1811. American State Papers, Foreign
Relations, vol. iii. p. 445. See also, more particularly, ibid., pp.
440, 441.

[329] U.S. State Department MSS., and State Papers, vol. iii. p. 250.

[330] That is, verbally, before his formal letter of February 23.

[331] Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates, vol. x. p. 669. A search
through the correspondence of Canning and Erskine, as well as through
the debates of Parliament upon the Orders in Council, January-April,
1808, reveals nothing confirmatory of the _pari passu_ claim, put
forth in Madison's letters quoted, and afterwards used by Monroe in
his arguments with Foster. But in Canning's instructions to Jackson,
July 1, 1809 (No. 3), appears a sentence which may throw some light on
the apparent misunderstanding. "As to the willingness or ability of
neutral nations to resist the Decrees of France, his Majesty has
always professed ... _a disposition to relax or modify his measures of
retaliation and self-defence in proportion as those of neutral,
nations_ should come in aid of them and take their place." This would
be action _pari passu_ with a neutral; and if the same were expressed
to Erskine, it is far from incredible, in view of his remarkable
action of 1809, that he may have extended it verbally without
authority to cover an act of France. My italics.

[332] Wellesley to Pinkney, Aug. 31, 1810. American State Papers,
Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 366.

[333] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 376.

[334] The American flag was used in this way to cover British
shipping. For instances see American State Papers, Foreign Relations,
vol. iii. p. 342.

[335] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 408.

[336] Author's italics.

[337] Armstrong had sailed for the United States two months before.

[338] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 391.

[339] Russell on November 17 wrote that he had reason to believe that
the revocation of the Decrees had not been notified to the ministers
charged with the execution of them. On December 4 he said that, as the
ordinary practice in seizing a vessel was to hold her sequestered till
the papers were examined in Paris, this might explain why the local
Custom-House was not notified of the repeal. Russell to the Secretary
of State, U.S. State Department MSS.

[340] Langdon Cheves of South Carolina. Annals of Congress, 1810-11,
pp. 885-887.

[341] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 393.

[342] Annals of Congress, 1810-11, p. 990.

[343] Pinkney to the Secretary of State, Jan. 17, 1811. American State
Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 408.

[344] Foster had succeeded as _chargé d'affaires_ in May, 1809, by the
departure of Merry, formerly minister to the United States. He was
afterwards appointed minister; but in June, 1810, under pressure from
Bonaparte, Sweden requested him to leave the country.

[345] Pearce, Life and Correspondence of the Marquis Wellesley, vol.
iii. p. 193.

[346] Author's italics.

[347] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 514.
Author's italics.

[348] Ibid., p. 435.

[349] Rodgers to Secretary of the Navy, Aug. 4, 1810. Captains'

[350] Bainbridge to the Secretary of the Navy, May 3, 1810. Captains'
Letters. The case was not singular.

[351] Orders of Admiral Sawyer to the Captain of the "Little Belt."
American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 475.

[352] American State Papers, vol. iii. p. 473. In the absence of the
British admiral, the senior officer at Halifax assembled a board of
captains which collected what his letter styles the depositions of the
"Little Belt's" officers. Depositions would imply that the witnesses
were sworn, but it is not so said in the report of the Board, where
they simply "state." In the case of honorable gentlemen history may
give equal credit in either case; but the indication would be that
inquiry was less particular. The Board reports no question by itself;
the "statements" are in the first person, apparently in reply to the
request "tell all you know," and are uninterrupted by comment.

[353] The proceedings of this court are printed in American State
Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 477-497.

[354] Annals of Congress, 1811-12, p. 890.

[355] Dec. 17, 1811. American State Papers, Naval Affairs, vol. i. p.

[356] Niles' Register, vol. ii. pp. 101-104.

[357] Russell to Monroe, May 30, 1812. U.S. State Department MSS.

[358] Russell to Monroe, August 15 and 21, 1812. U.S. State Department

[359] See Jefferson's Works, vol. v. pp. 335, 337, 338, 339, 419,

[360] Madison to Russell, Nov. 15, 1811. U.S. State Department MSS.

[361] Russell to Robert Smith, March 15, 1811. U.S. State Department

[362] Russell to the Secretary of State, July 15, 1811. Ibid.

[363] Ante, p. 217.

[364] Note dictée en conseil d'Administration du Commerce, April 29,
1811. Correspondance de Napoléon, vol. xxii. p. 144.

[365] Russell to Monroe, July 13, 1811. U.S. State Department MSS.

[366] Russell to J.S. Smith, July 14, 1811. American State Papers,
Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 447.

[367] Russell to Bassano, Aug. 8, 1811. U.S. State Department MSS.

[368] Russell to Robert Smith, April, 1811. Ibid.

[369] Monroe to Russell, June 8, 1811. Ibid.

[370] Reports of the Ministers of Foreign Relations and of War, March
10, 1812. Moniteur, March 16.

[371] Russell to Monroe, April 19, 1812. U.S. State Department MSS.

[372] The copy of this Order in Council which the author is here using
is in the Naval Chronicle, vol. xxvii. p. 466.

[373] This letter, which is given in a very mutilated form in the
American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 602, has been
published in full by the Bureau of Historical Research, Carnegie
Institution, Washington. Report on the Diplomatic Archives of the
Department of State, 1904, p. 64.

[374] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 603.

[375] Barlow's interview with Bassano, and the letters exchanged, will
be found in American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p.
602-603. Russell's denial is on p. 614. Serrurier's is mentioned in a
Report made to the House by Monroe, Secretary of State, ibid., p. 609.

[376] Barlow to Russell, May 10, 1812. U.S. State Department MSS.

[377] Russell to Monroe, May 9, 1812. Ibid.

[378] The passages cited above are from Russell's correspondence with
the State Department, under the dates of January 10, February 3 and
19, March 4 and 20, 1812. U.S. State Department MSS.

[379] Russell to Monroe, May 9, 1812. U.S. State Department MSS.

[380] Barlow to Monroe, March 15, 1812. Ibid. Published by Bureau of
Historical Research, Carnegie Institution, 1904, p. 63.

[381] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 433.
Author's italics.

[382] Russell to Monroe, June 30, 1812. U.S. State Department MSS.

[383] Russell to Monroe, June 30, 1812. U.S. State Department MSS.

[384] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 405.

[385] Ante, p. 106.

[386] To John Taylor, Sept. 10, 1810. Works of James Monroe, vol. vi.
p. 128.

[387] Monroe to Jefferson, Monroe's Works, vol. v. p. 268.

[388] Annals of Congress, 1811-12, p. 2046.




War being now immediately at hand, it is advisable, for the better
appreciation of the course of events, the more accurate estimate of
their historical and military value, to consider the relative
conditions of the two opponents, the probable seats of warlike
operations, and the methods which it was open to either to pursue.

Invasion of the British Islands, or of any transmarine possession of
Great Britain--save Canada--was denied to the United States by the
immeasurable inferiority of her navy. To cross the sea in force was
impossible, even for short distances. For this reason, land operations
were limited to the North American Continent. This fact, conjoined
with the strong traditional desire, received from the old French wars
and cherished in the War of Independence, to incorporate the Canadian
colonies with the Union, determined an aggressive policy by the United
States on the northern frontier. This was indeed the only
distinctively offensive operation available to her upon the land;
consequently it was imposed by reasons of both political and military
expediency. On the other hand, the sea was open to American armed
ships, though under certain very obvious restrictions; that is to say,
subject to the primary difficulty of evading blockades of the coast,
and of escaping subsequent capture by the very great number of
British cruisers, which watched all seas where British commerce went
and came, and most of the ports whence hostile ships might issue to
prey upon it. The principal trammel which now rests upon the movements
of vessels destined to cripple an enemy's commerce--the necessity to
renew the motive power, coal, at frequent brief intervals--did not
then exist. The wind, upon which motion depended, might at particular
moments favor one of two antagonists relatively to the other; but in
the long run it was substantially the same for all. In this respect
all were on an equal footing; and the supply, if fickle at times, was
practically inexhaustible. Barring accidents, vessels were able to
keep the sea as long as their provisions and water lasted. This period
may be reckoned as generally three months, while by watchful
administration it might at times be protracted to six.

It is desirable to explain here what was, and is, the particular
specific utility of operations directed toward the destruction of an
enemy's commerce; what its bearing upon the issues of war; and how,
also, it affects the relative interests of antagonists, unequally
paired in the matter of sea power. Without attempting to determine
precisely the relative importance of internal and external commerce,
which varies with each country, and admitting that the length of
transportation entails a distinct element of increased cost upon the
articles transported, it is nevertheless safe to say that, to nations
having free access to the sea, the export and import trade is a very
large factor in national prosperity and comfort. At the very least, it
increases by so much the aggregate of commercial transactions, while
the ease and copiousness of water carriage go far to compensate for
the increase of distance. Furthermore, the public revenue of maritime
states is largely derived from duties on imports. Hence arises,
therefore, a large source of wealth, of money; and money--ready money
or substantial credit--is proverbially the sinews of war, as the War
of 1812 was amply to demonstrate. Inconvertible assets, as business
men know, are a very inefficacious form of wealth in tight times; and
war is always a tight time for a country, a time in which its positive
wealth, in the shape of every kind of produce, is of little use,
unless by freedom of exchange it can be converted into cash for
governmental expenses. To this sea-commerce greatly contributes, and
the extreme embarrassment under which the United States as a nation
labored in 1814 was mainly due to commercial exclusion from the sea.
To attack the commerce of the enemy is therefore to cripple him, in
the measure of success achieved, in the particular factor which is
vital to the maintenance of war. Moreover, in the complicated
conditions of mercantile activity no one branch can be seriously
injured without involving others.

This may be called the financial and political effect of "commerce
destroying," as the modern phrase runs. In military effect, it is
strictly analogous to the impairing of an enemy's communications, of
the line of supplies connecting an army with its base of operations,
upon the maintenance of which the life of the army depends. Money,
credit, is the life of war; lessen it, and vigor flags; destroy it,
and resistance dies. No resource then remains except to "make war
support war;" that is, to make the vanquished pay the bills for the
maintenance of the army which has crushed him, or which is proceeding
to crush whatever opposition is left alive. This, by the extraction of
private money, and of supplies for the use of his troops, from the
country in which he was fighting, was the method of Napoleon, than
whom no man held more delicate views concerning the gross impropriety
of capturing private property at sea, whither his power did not
extend. Yet this, in effect, is simply another method of forcing the
enemy to surrender a large part of his means, so weakening him, while
transferring it to the victor for the better propagation of
hostilities. The exaction of a pecuniary indemnity from the worsted
party at the conclusion of a war, as is frequently done, differs from
the seizure of property in transit afloat only in method, and as peace
differs from war. In either case, money or money's worth is exacted;
but when peace supervenes, the method of collection is left to the
Government of the country, in pursuance of its powers of taxation, to
distribute the burden among the people; whereas in war, the primary
object being immediate injury to the enemy's fighting power, it is not
only legitimate in principle, but particularly effective, to seek the
disorganization of his financial system by a crushing attack upon one
of its important factors, because effort thus is concentrated on a
readily accessible, fundamental element of his general prosperity.
That the loss falls directly on individuals, or a class, instead of
upon the whole community, is but an incident of war, just as some men
are killed and others not. Indirectly, but none the less surely, the
whole community, and, what is more important, the organized
government, are crippled; offensive powers impaired.

But while this is the absolute tendency of war against commerce,
common to all cases, the relative value varies greatly with the
countries having recourse to it. It is a species of hostilities easily
extemporized by a great maritime nation; it therefore favors one whose
policy is not to maintain a large naval establishment. It opens a
field for a sea militia force, requiring little antecedent military
training. Again, it is a logical military reply to commercial
blockade, which is the most systematic, regularized, and extensive
form of commerce-destruction known to war. Commercial blockade is not
to be confounded with the military measure of confining a body of
hostile ships of war to their harbor, by stationing before it a
competent force. It is directed against merchant vessels, and is not
a military operation in the narrowest sense, in that it does not
necessarily involve fighting, nor propose the capture of the blockaded
harbor. It is not usually directed against military ports, unless
these happen to be also centres of commerce. Its object, which was the
paramount function of the United States Navy during the Civil War,
dealing probably the most decisive blow inflicted upon the
Confederacy, is the destruction of commerce by closing the ports of
egress and ingress. Incidental to that, all ships, neutrals included,
attempting to enter or depart, after public notification through
customary channels, are captured and confiscated as remorselessly as
could be done by the most greedy privateer. Thus constituted, the
operation receives far wider scope than commerce-destruction on the
high seas; for this is confined to merchantmen of belligerents, while
commercial blockade, by universal consent, subjects to capture
neutrals who attempt to infringe it, because, by attempting to defeat
the efforts of one belligerent, they make themselves parties to the

In fact, commercial blockade, though most effective as a military
measure in broad results, is so distinctly commerce-destructive in
essence, that those who censure the one form must logically proceed to
denounce the other. This, as has been seen,[389] Napoleon did;
alleging in his Berlin Decree, in 1806, that war cannot be extended to
any private property whatever, and that the right of blockade is
restricted to _fortified_ places, actually invested by competent
forces. This he had the face to assert, at the very moment when he was
compelling every vanquished state to extract, from the private means
of its subjects, coin running up to hundreds of millions to replenish
his military chest for further extension of hostilities. Had this
dictum been accepted international law in 1861, the United States
could not have closed the ports of the Confederacy, the commerce of
which would have proceeded unmolested; and hostile measures being
consequently directed against men's persons instead of their trade,
victory, if accomplished at all, would have cost three lives for every
two actually lost. It is apparent, immediately on statement, that
against commerce-destruction by blockade, the recourse of the weaker
maritime belligerent is commerce-destruction by cruisers on the high
sea. Granting equal efficiency in the use of either measure, it is
further plain that the latter is intrinsically far less efficacious.
To cut off access to a city is much more certainly accomplished by
holding the gates than by scouring the country in search of persons
seeking to enter. Still, one can but do what one can. In 1861 to 1865,
the Southern Confederacy, unable to shake off the death grip fastened
on its throat, attempted counteraction by means of the "Alabama,"
"Sumter," and their less famous consorts, with what disastrous
influence upon the navigation--the shipping--of the Union it is
needless to insist. But while the shipping of the opposite belligerent
was in this way not only crippled, but indirectly was swept from the
seas, the Confederate cruisers, not being able to establish a
blockade, could not prevent neutral vessels from carrying on the
commerce of the Union. This consequently suffered no serious
interruption; whereas the produce of the South, its inconvertible
wealth--cotton chiefly--was practically useless to sustain the
financial system and credit of the people. So, in 1812 and the two
years following, the United States flooded the seas with privateers,
producing an effect upon British commerce which, though inconclusive
singly, doubtless co-operated powerfully with other motives to dispose
the enemy to liberal terms of peace. It was the reply, and the only
possible reply, to the commercial blockade, the grinding efficacy of
which it will be a principal object of these pages to depict. The
issue to us has been accurately characterized by Mr. Henry Adams, in
the single word "Exhaustion."[390]

Both parties to the War of 1812 being conspicuously maritime in
disposition and occupation, while separated by three thousand miles of
ocean, the sea and its navigable approaches became necessarily the
most extensive scene of operations. There being between them great
inequality of organized naval strength and of pecuniary resources,
they inevitably resorted, according to their respective force, to one
or the other form of maritime hostilities against commerce which have
been indicated. To this procedure combats on the high seas were merely
incidental. Tradition, professional pride, and the combative spirit
inherent in both peoples, compelled fighting when armed vessels of
nearly equal strength met; but such contests, though wholly laudable
from the naval standpoint, which under ordinary circumstances cannot
afford to encourage retreat from an equal foe, were indecisive of
general results, however meritorious in particular execution. They had
no effect upon the issue, except so far as they inspired moral
enthusiasm and confidence. Still more, in the sequel they have had a
distinctly injurious effect upon national opinion in the United
States. In the brilliant exhibition of enterprise, professional skill,
and usual success, by its naval officers and seamen, the country has
forgotten the precedent neglect of several administrations to
constitute the navy as strong in proportion to the means of the
country as it was excellent through the spirit and acquirements of its
officers. Sight also has been lost of the actual conditions of
repression, confinement, and isolation, enforced upon the maritime
frontier during the greater part of the war, with the misery and
mortification thence ensuing. It has been widely inferred that the
maritime conditions in general were highly flattering to national
pride, and that a future emergency could be confronted with the same
supposed facility, and as little preparation, as the odds of 1812 are
believed to have been encountered and overcome. This mental
impression, this picture, is false throughout, alike in its grouping
of incidents, in its disregard of proportion, and in its ignoring of
facts. The truth of this assertion will appear in due course of this
narrative, and it will be seen that, although relieved by many
brilliant incidents, indicative of the real spirit and capacity of the
nation, the record upon the whole is one of gloom, disaster, and
governmental incompetence, resulting from lack of national
preparation, due to the obstinate and blind prepossessions of the
Government, and, in part, of the people.

This was so even upon the water, despite the great names--for great
they were in measure of their opportunities--of Decatur, Hull, Perry,
Macdonough, Morris, and a dozen others. On shore things were far
worse; for while upon the water the country had as leaders men still
in the young prime of life, who were both seamen and officers,--none
of those just named were then over forty,--the army at the beginning
had only elderly men, who, if they ever had been soldiers in any truer
sense than young fighting men,--soldiers by training and
understanding,--had long since disacquired whatever knowledge and
habit of the profession they had gained in the War of Independence,
then more than thirty years past. "As far as American movements are
concerned," said one of Wellington's trusted officers, sent to report
upon the subject of Canadian defence, "the campaign of 1812 is almost
beneath criticism."[391] Instructed American opinion must sorrowfully
admit the truth of the comment. That of 1813 was not much better,
although some younger men--Brown, Scott, Gaines, Macomb, Ripley--were
beginning to show their mettle, and there had by then been placed at
the head of the War Department a secretary who at least possessed a
reasoned understanding of the principles of warfare. With every
material military advantage, save the vital one of adequate
preparation, it was found too late to prepare when war was already at
hand; and after the old inefficients had been given a chance to
demonstrate their incapacity, it was too late to utilize the young

Jefferson, with curious insanity of optimism, had once written, "We
begin to broach the idea that we consider the whole Gulf Stream as of
our waters, within which hostilities and cruising are to be frowned on
for the present, and prohibited as soon as either consent or force
will permit;"[392] while at the same time, under an unbroken
succession of maritime humiliations, he of purpose neglected all naval
preparation save that of two hundred gunboats, which could not venture
out of sight of land without putting their guns in the hold. With like
blindness to the conditions to which his administration had reduced
the nation, he now wrote: "The acquisition of Canada this year [1812],
as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of
marching."[393] This would scarcely have been a misappreciation, had
his care for the army and that of his successor given the country in
1812 an effective force of fifteen thousand regulars. Great Britain
had but forty-five hundred in all Canada,[394] from Quebec to St.
Joseph's, near Mackinac; and the American resources in militia were to
hers as ten to one. But Jefferson and Madison, with their Secretary of
the Treasury, had reduced the national debt between 1801 and 1812 from
$80,000,000 to $45,000,000, concerning which a Virginia Senator
remarked: "This difference has never been felt by society. It has
produced no effect upon the common intercourse among men. For my part,
I should never have known of the reduction but for the annual Treasury
Report."[395] Something was learned about it, however, in the first
year of the war, and the interest upon the savings was received at
Detroit, on the Niagara frontier, in the Chesapeake and the Delaware.

The War of 1812 was very unpopular in certain sections of the United
States and with certain parts of the community. By these, particular
fault was found with the invasion of Canada. "You have declared war, it
was said, for two principal alleged reasons: one, the general policy of
the British Government, formulated in the successive Orders in Council,
to the unjustifiable injury and violation of American commerce; the
other, the impressment of seamen from American merchant ships. What
have Canada and the Canadians to do with either? If war you must, carry
on your war upon the ocean, the scene of your avowed wrongs, and the
seat of your adversary's prosperity, and do not embroil these innocent
regions and people in the common ruin which, without adequate cause,
you are bringing upon your own countrymen, and upon the only nation
that now upholds the freedom of mankind against that oppressor of our
race, that incarnation of all despotism--Napoleon." So, not without
some alloy of self-interest, the question presented itself to New
England, and so New England presented it to the Government and the
Southern part of the Union; partly as a matter of honest conviction,
partly as an incident of the factiousness inherent in all political
opposition, which makes a point wherever it can.

Logically, there may at first appear some reason in these arguments.
We are bound to believe so, for we cannot entirely impeach the candor
of our ancestors, who doubtless advanced them with some degree of
conviction. The answer, of course, is, that when two nations go to
war, all the citizens of one become internationally the enemies of the
other. This is the accepted principle of International Law, a residuum
of the concentrated wisdom of many generations of international
legists. When war takes the place of peace, it annihilates all natural
and conventional rights, all treaties and compacts, except those which
appertain to the state of war itself. The warfare of modern
civilization assures many rights to an enemy, by custom, by precedent,
by compact; many treaties bear express stipulations that, should war
arise between the parties, such and such methods of warfare are
barred; but all these are merely guaranteed exceptions to the general
rule that every individual of each nation is the enemy of those of the
opposing belligerent.

Canada and the Canadians, being British subjects, became therefore,
however involuntarily, the enemies of the United States, when the
latter decided that the injuries received from Great Britain compelled
recourse to the sword. Moreover, war, once determined, must be waged
on the principles of war; and whatever greed of annexation may have
entered into the motives of the Administration of the day, there can
be no question that politically and militarily, as a war measure, the
invasion of Canada was not only justifiable but imperative. "In case
of war," wrote the United States Secretary of State, Monroe, a very
few days[396] before the declaration, "it might be necessary to invade
Canada; not as an object of the war, but as a means to bring it to a
satisfactory conclusion." War now is never waged for the sake of mere
fighting, simply to see who is the better at killing people. The
warfare of civilized nations is for the purpose of accomplishing an
object, obtaining a concession of alleged right from an enemy who has
proved implacable to argument. He is to be made to yield to force what
he has refused to reason; and to do that, hold is laid upon what is
his, either by taking actual possession, or by preventing his
utilizing what he still may retain. An attachment is issued, so to
say, or an injunction laid, according to circumstances; as men in law
do to enforce payment of a debt, or abatement of an injury. If, in the
attempt to do this, the other nation resists, as it probably will,
then fighting ensues; but that fighting is only an incident of war.
War, in substance, though not perhaps in form, began when the one
nation resorted to force, quite irrespective of the resistance of the

Canada, conquered by the United States, would therefore have been a
piece of British property attached; either in compensation for claims,
or as an asset in the bargaining which precedes a treaty of peace. Its
retention even, as a permanent possession, would have been justified
by the law of war, if the military situation supported that course.
This is a political consideration; militarily, the reasons were even
stronger. To Americans the War of 1812 has worn the appearance of a
maritime contest. This is both natural and just; for, as a matter of
fact, not only were the maritime operations more pleasing to
retrospect, but they also were as a whole, and on both sides, far more
efficient, far more virile, than those on land. Under the relative
conditions of the parties, however, it ought to have been a land war,
because of the vastly superior advantages on shore possessed by the
party declaring war; and such it would have been, doubtless, but for
the amazing incompetency of most of the army leaders on both sides,
after the fall of the British general, Brock, almost at the opening of
hostilities. This incompetency, on the part of the United States, is
directly attributable to the policy of Jefferson and Madison; for had
proper attention and development been given to the army between 1801
and 1812, it could scarcely have failed that some indication of men's
fitness or unfitness would have preceded and obviated the lamentable
experience of the first two years, when every opportunity was
favorable, only to be thrown away from lack of leadership. That even
the defects of preparation, extreme and culpable as these were, could
have been overcome, is evidenced by the history of the Lakes. The
Governor General, Prevost, reported to the home government in July and
August, 1812, that the British still had the naval superiority on Erie
and Ontario;[397] but this condition was reversed by the energy and
capacity of the American commanders, Chauncey, Perry, and Macdonough,
utilizing the undeniable superiority in available resources--mechanics
and transportation--which their territory had over the Canadian, not
for naval warfare only, but for land as well.

The general considerations that have been advanced are sufficient to
indicate what should have been the general plan of the war on the part
of the United States. Every war must be aggressive, or, to use the
technical term, offensive, in military character; for unless you
injure the enemy, if you confine yourself, as some of the grumblers of
that day would have it, to simple defence against his efforts,
obviously he has no inducement to yield your contention. Incidentally,
however, vital interests must be defended, otherwise the power of
offence falls with them. Every war, therefore, has both a defensive
and an offensive side, and in an effective plan of campaign each must
receive due attention. Now, in 1812, so far as general natural
conditions went, the United States was relatively weak on the sea
frontier, and strong on the side of Canada. The seaboard might,
indeed, in the preceding ten years, have been given a development of
force, by the creation of an adequate navy, which would have
prevented war, by the obvious danger to British interests involved in
hostilities. But this had not been done; and Jefferson, by his gunboat
policy, building some two hundred of those vessels, worthless unless
under cover of the land, proclaimed by act as by voice his adherence
to a bare defensive. The sea frontier, therefore, became mainly a line
of defence, the utility of which primarily was, or should have been,
to maintain communication with the outside world; to support commerce,
which in turn should sustain the financial potency that determines the
issues of war.

The truth of this observation is shown by one single fact, which will
receive recurrent mention from time to time in the narrative. Owing
partly to the necessities of the British Government, and partly as a
matter of favor extended to the New England States, on account of
their antagonism to the war, the commercial blockade of the coast was
for a long time--until April 25, 1814--limited to the part between
Narragansett Bay and the boundary of Florida, then a Spanish colony.
During this period, which Madison angrily called one of "invidious
discrimination between different parts of the United States," New
England was left open to neutral commerce, which the British, to
supply their own wants, further encouraged by a system of licenses,
exempting from capture the vessels engaged, even though American.
Owing largely to this, though partly to the local development of
manufactures caused by the previous policy of restriction upon foreign
trade, which had diverted New England from maritime commerce to
manufactures, that section became the distributing centre of the
Union. In consequence, the remainder of the country was practically
drained of specie, which set to the northward and eastward, the
surplusage above strictly local needs finding its way to Canada, to
ease the very severe necessities of the British military authorities
there; for Great Britain, maintaining her own armies in the Spanish
peninsula, and supporting in part the alliance against Napoleon on the
Continent, could spare no coin to Canada. It could not go far south,
because the coasting trade was destroyed by the enemy's fleets, and
the South could not send forward its produce by land to obtain money
in return. The deposits in Massachusetts banks increased from
$2,671,619, in 1810, to $8,875,589, in 1814; while in the same years
the specie held was respectively $1,561,034 and $6,393,718.[398]

It was a day of small things, relatively to present gigantic
commercial enterprises; but an accumulation of cash in one quarter,
coinciding with penury in another, proves defect in circulation
consequent upon embarrassed communications. That flour in Boston sold
for $12.00 the barrel, while at Baltimore and Richmond it stood at
$6.50 and $4.50, tells the same tale of congestion and deficiency, due
to interruption of water communication; the whole proving that, under
the conditions of 1812, as the United States Government had allowed
them to become, through failure to foster a navy by which alone coast
defence in the true sense can be effected, the coast frontier was
essentially the weak point. There Great Britain could put forth her
enormous naval strength with the most sensible and widespread injury
to American national power, as represented in the financial stability
which constitutes the sinews of war. Men enough could be had; there
were one hundred thousand registered seamen belonging to the country;
but in the preceding ten years the frigate force had decreased from
thirteen of that nominal rate to nine, while the only additions to the
service, except gunboats, were two sloops of war, two brigs, and four
schooners. The construction of ships of the line, for six of which
provision had been made under the administration which expired in
1801, was abandoned immediately by its successor. There was no navy
for defence.

Small vessels, under which denomination most frigates should be
included, have their appropriate uses in a naval establishment, but in
themselves are inadequate to the defence of a coast-line, in the true
sense of the word "defence." It is one of the first elements of
intelligent warfare that true defence consists in imposing upon the
enemy a wholesome fear of yourself. "The best protection against the
enemy's fire," said Farragut, "is a rapid fire from our own guns." "No
scheme of defence," said Napoleon, "can be considered efficient that
does not provide the means of attacking the enemy at an opportune
moment. In the defence of a river, for instance," he continues, "you
must not only be able to withstand its passage by the enemy, but must
keep in your own hands means of crossing, so as to attack him, when
occasion either offers, or can be contrived." In short, you must
command either a bridge or a ford, and have a disposable force ready
to utilize it by attack. The fact of such preparation fetters every
movement of the enemy.

At its very outbreak the War of 1812 gave an illustration of the
working of this principle. Tiny as was the United States Navy, the
opening of hostilities found it concentrated in a body of several
frigates, with one or two sloops of war, which put to sea together.
The energies of Great Britain being then concentrated upon the navy of
Napoleon, her available force at Halifax and Bermuda was small, and
the frigates, of which it was almost wholly composed, were compelled
to keep together; for, if they attempted to scatter, in order to watch
several commercial ports, they were exposed to capture singly by this
relatively numerous body of American cruisers. The narrow escape of
the frigate "Constitution" from the British squadron at this moment,
on her way from the Chesapeake to New York, which port she was unable
to gain, exemplifies precisely the risk of dispersion that the British
frigates did not dare to face while their enemy was believed to be at
hand in concentrated force. They being compelled thus to remain
together, the ports were left open; and the American merchant ships,
of which a great number were then abroad, returned with comparative
impunity, though certainly not entirely without losses.

This actual experience illustrates exactly the principle of coast
defence by the power having relatively the weaker navy. It cannot,
indeed, drive away a body numerically much stronger; but, if itself
respectable in force, it can compel the enemy to keep united. Thereby
is minimized the injury caused to a coast-line by the dispersion of the
enemy's force along it in security, such as was subsequently acquired
by the British in 1813-14, and by the United States Navy during the
Civil War. The enemy's fears defend the coast, and protect the nation,
by securing the principal benefit of the coast-line--coastwise and
maritime trade, and the revenue thence proceeding. In order, however,
to maintain this imposing attitude, the defending state must hold ready
a concentrated force, of such size that the enemy cannot safely divide
his own--a force, for instance, such as that estimated by Gouverneur
Morris, twenty years before 1812.[399] The defendant fleet, further,
must be able to put to sea at a moment inconvenient to the enemy; must
have the bridge or ford Napoleon required for his army. Such the United
States had in her seaports, which with moderate protection could keep
an enemy at a distance, and from which escape was possible under
conditions exceedingly dangerous for the detached hostile divisions;
but although possessing these bridge heads leading to the scene of
ocean war, no force to issue from them existed. In those eleven
precious years during which Great Britain by American official returns
had captured 917 American ships,[400] a large proportion of them in
defiance of International Law, as was claimed, and had impressed from
American vessels 6,257 seamen,[401] asserted to be mostly American
citizens, the United States had built two sloops of 18 guns, and two
brigs of 16; and out of twelve frigates had permitted three to rot at
their moorings. To build ships of the line had not even been attempted.
Consequently, except when weather drove them off, puny divisions of
British ships gripped each commercial port by the throat with perfect
safety; and those weather occasions, which constitute the opportunity
of the defendant sea power, could not be improved by military action.

Such in general was the condition of the sea frontier, thrown
inevitably upon the defensive. With the passing comment that, had it
been defended as suggested, Great Britain would never have forced the
war, let us now consider conditions on the Canadian line, where
circumstances eminently favored the offensive by the United States;
for this war should not be regarded simply as a land war or a naval
war, nor yet as a war of offence and again one of defence, but as
being continuously and at all times both offensive and defensive, both
land and sea, in reciprocal influence.

Disregarding as militarily unimportant the artificial boundary
dividing Canada from New York, Vermont, and the eastern parts of the
Union, the frontier separating the land positions of the two
belligerents was the Great Lakes and the river St. Lawrence. This
presented certain characteristic and unusual features. That it was a
water line was a condition not uncommon; but it was exceptionally
marked by those broad expanses which constitute inland seas of great
size and depth, navigable by vessels of the largest sea-going
dimensions. This water system, being continuous and in continual
progress, is best conceived by applying to the whole, from Lake
Superior to the ocean, the name of the great river, the St. Lawrence,
which on the one hand unites it to the sea, and on the other divides
the inner waters from the outer by a barrier of rapids, impassable to
ships that otherwise could navigate freely both lakes and ocean.

The importance of the lakes to military operations must always be
great, but it was much enhanced in 1812 by the undeveloped condition
of land communications. With the roads in the state they then were,
the movement of men, and still more of supplies, was vastly more rapid
by water than by land. Except in winter, when iron-bound snow covered
the ground, the routes of Upper Canada were well-nigh impassable; in
spring and in autumn rains, wholly so to heavy vehicles. The mail from
Montreal to York,--now Toronto,--three hundred miles, took a month in
transit.[402] In October, 1814, when the war was virtually over, the
British General at Niagara lamented to the Commander-in-Chief that,
owing to the refusal of the navy to carry troops, an important
detachment was left "to struggle through the dreadful roads from
Kingston to York."[403] "Should reinforcements and provisions not
arrive, the naval commander would," in his opinion, "have much to
answer for."[404] The Commander-in-Chief himself wrote: "The command
of the lakes enables the enemy to perform in two days what it takes
the troops from Kingston sixteen to twenty days of severe marching.
Their men arrive fresh; ours fatigued, and with exhausted equipment.
The distance from Kingston to the Niagara frontier exceeds two hundred
and fifty miles, and part of the way is impracticable for
supplies."[405] On the United States side, road conditions were
similar but much less disadvantageous. The water route by Ontario was
greatly preferred as a means of transportation, and in parts and at
certain seasons was indispensable. Stores for Sackett's Harbor, for
instance, had in early summer to be brought to Oswego, and thence
coasted along to their destination, in security or in peril, according
to the momentary predominance of one party or the other on the lake.
In like manner, it was more convenient to move between the Niagara
frontier and the east end of the lake by water; but in case of
necessity, men could march. An English traveller in 1818 says: "I
accomplished the journey from Albany to Buffalo in October in six days
with ease and comfort, whereas in May it took ten of great difficulty
and distress."[406] In the farther West the American armies, though
much impeded, advanced securely through Ohio and Indiana to the shores
of Lake Erie, and there maintained themselves in supplies sent
over-country; whereas the British at the western end of the lake,
opposite Detroit, depended wholly upon the water, although no hostile
force threatened the land line between them and Ontario. The battle of
Lake Erie, so disastrous to their cause, was forced upon them purely
by failure of food, owing to the appearance of Perry's squadron.

From Lake Superior to the head of the first rapid of the St. Lawrence,
therefore, the control of the water was the decisive factor in the
general military situation. Both on the upper lakes, where water
communication from Sault Sainte Marie to Niagara was unbroken, and on
Ontario, separated from the others by the falls of Niagara, the
British had at the outset a slight superiority, but not beyond the
power of the United States to overtake and outpass. Throughout the
rapids, to Montreal, military conditions resembled those which
confront a general charged with the passage of any great river. If
undertaken at all, such an enterprise requires the deceiving of the
opponent as to the place and time when the attempt will be made, the
careful provision of means and disposition of men for instant
execution, and finally the prompt and decisive seizure of opportunity,
to transfer and secure on the opposite shore a small body, capable of
maintaining itself until the bulk of the army can cross to its
support. Nothing of the sort was attempted here, or needed to be
undertaken in this war. Naval superiority determined the ability to
cross above the rapids, and there was no occasion to consider the
question of crossing between them. Immediately below the last lay
Montreal, accessible to sea-going vessels from the ocean. To that
point, therefore, the sea power of Great Britain reached, and there it

The United States Government was conscious of its great potential
superiority over Canada, in men and in available resources. So
evident, indeed, was the disparity, that the prevalent feeling was not
one of reasonable self-reliance, but of vainglorious self-confidence;
of dependence upon mere bulk and weight to crush an opponent, quite
irrespective of preparation or skill, and disregardful of the factor
of military efficiency. Jefferson's words have already been quoted.
Calhoun, then a youthful member of Congress, and a foremost advocate
of the war, said in March, 1812: "So far from being unprepared, Sir, I
believe that in four weeks from the time a declaration of war is
heard, on our frontier, the whole of Upper Canada"--halfway down the
St. Lawrence--"and a part of Lower Canada will be in our power." This
tone was general in Congress; Henry Clay spoke to the same effect.
Granting due preparation, such might indeed readily have been the
result of a well-designed, active, offensive campaign. Little hope of
any other result was held by the British local officials, and what
little they had was based upon the known want of military efficiency
in the United States. Brock, by far the ablest among them, in February
declared his "full conviction that unless Detroit and Michilimackinac
be both in our possession at the commencement of hostilities, not only
Amherstburg"--on the Detroit River, a little below Detroit--"but most
probably the whole country, must be evacuated as far as
Kingston."[407] This place is at the foot of Ontario, close to the
entrance to the St. Lawrence. Having a good and defensible harbor, it
had been selected for the naval station of the lake. If successful in
holding it, there would be a base of operations for attempting
recovery of the water, and ultimately of the upper country. Failing
there, of course the British must fall back upon the sea, touch with
which they would regain at Montreal, resting there upon the navy of
their nation; just as Wellington, by the same dependence, had
maintained himself at Lisbon unshaken by the whole power of Napoleon.

There was, however, no certainty that the Lisbon of Canada would be
found at Montreal. Though secure on the water side, there were there
no lines of Torres Vedras; and it was well within the fears of the
governors of Canada that under energetic attack their forces would not
be able to make a stand short of Quebec, against the overwhelming
numbers which might be brought against them. In December, 1807,
Governor General Craig, a soldier of tried experience and reputation,
had written: "Defective as it is, Quebec is the only post that can be
considered tenable for a moment. If the Americans should turn their
attention to Lower Canada, which is most probable, I have no hopes
that the forces here can accomplish more than to check them for a
short time. They will eventually be compelled to take refuge in
Quebec, and operations must terminate in a siege."[408] Consequent
upon this report of a most competent officer, much had been done to
strengthen the works; but pressed by the drain of the Peninsular War,
heaviest in the years 1809 to 1812, when France elsewhere was at
peace, little in the way of troops had been sent. As late as November
16, 1812, the Secretary for War, in London, notified Governor General
Prevost that as yet he could give no hopes of reinforcements.[409]
Napoleon had begun his retreat from Moscow three weeks before, but the
full effects of the impending disaster were not yet forecast. Another
three weeks, and the Secretary wrote that a moderate detachment would
be sent to Bermuda, to await there the opening of the St. Lawrence in
the spring.[410] But already the United States had lost Mackinac and
Detroit, and Canada had gained time to breathe.

Brock's remark, expanded as has here been done, defines the decisive
military points upon the long frontier from Lake Superior to Montreal.
Mackinac, Detroit, Kingston, Montreal--these four places, together
with adequate development of naval strength on the lakes--constituted
the essential elements of the military situation at the opening of
hostilities. Why? Mackinac and Detroit because, being situated upon
extremely narrow parts of the vital chain of water communication,
their possession controlled decisively all transit. Held in force,
they commanded the one great and feasible access to the northwestern
country. Upon them turned, therefore, the movement of what was then
its chief industry, the fur trade; but more important still, the
tenure of those points so affected the interests of the Indians of
that region as to throw them necessarily on the side of the party in
possession. It is difficult for us to realize how heavily this
consideration weighed at that day with both nations, but especially
with the British; because, besides being locally the weaker, they knew
that under existing conditions in Europe--Napoleon still in the height
of his power, never yet vanquished, and about to undertake the
invasion of Russia--they had nothing to hope from the mother country.
Yet the leaders, largely professional soldiers, faced the situation
with soldierly instinct. "If we could destroy the American posts at
Detroit and Michilimackinac," wrote Lieutenant-Governor Gore of Upper
Canada, to Craig, in 1808, "many Indians would declare for us;" and he
agrees with Craig that, "if not for us, they will surely be against

It was Gore's successor, Brock, that wrested from the Americans at
once the two places named, with the effect upon the Indians which had
been anticipated. The dependence of these upon this water-line
communication was greatly increased by various punitive expeditions by
the United States troops in the Northwest, under General Harrison, in
the autumn and winter of 1812-13. To secure further the safety of the
whites in the outer settlements, the villages and corn of the hostile
natives were laid waste for a considerable surrounding distance.[412]
They were thus forced to remove, and to seek shelter in the Northwest.
This increase of population in that quarter, relatively to a store of
food never too abundant, made it the more urgent for them to remain
friends of those with whom it rested to permit the water traffic, by
which supplies could come forward and the exchange of commodities go
on. The fall of Michilimackinac, therefore, determined their side, to
which the existing British naval command of the upper lakes also
contributed; and these causes were alleged by Hull in justification of
his surrender at Detroit, which completed and secured the enemy's grip
throughout the Northwestern frontier. This accession of strength to
the British was not without very serious drawbacks. Shortly before the
battle of Lake Erie the British commissaries were feeding fourteen
thousand Indians--men, women, and children. What proportion of these
were warriors it is hard to say, and harder still how many could be
counted on to take the field when wanted; but it is probable that the
exhaustion of supplies due to this cause more than compensated for any
service received from them in war. When Barclay sailed to fight Perry,
there remained in store but one day's flour, and the crews of his
ships had been for some days on half allowance of many articles.

The opinion of competent soldiers on the spot, such as Craig and
Brock, in full possession of all the contemporary facts, may be
accepted explicitly as confirming the inferences which in any event
might have been drawn from the natural features of the situation. Upon
Mackinac and Detroit depended the control and quiet of the
Northwestern country, because they commanded vital points on its line
of communication. Upon Kingston and Montreal, by their position and
intrinsic advantages, rested the communication of all Canada, along
and above the St. Lawrence, with the sea power of Great Britain,
whence alone could be drawn the constant support without which
ultimate defeat should have been inevitable. Naval power, sustained
upon the Great Lakes, controlled the great line of communication
between the East and West, and also conferred upon the party
possessing it the strategic advantage of interior lines; that is, of
shorter distances, both in length and time, to move from point to
point of the lake shores, close to which lay the scenes of
operations. It followed that Detroit and Michilimackinac, being at the
beginning in the possession of the United States, should have been
fortified, garrisoned, provisioned, in readiness for siege, and placed
in close communication with home, as soon as war was seen to be
imminent, which it was in December, 1811, at latest. Having in that
quarter everything to lose, and comparatively little to gain, the
country was thrown on the defensive. On the east the possession of
Montreal or Kingston would cut off all Canada above from support by
the sea, which would be equivalent to insuring its fall. "I shall
continue to exert myself to the utmost to overcome every difficulty,"
wrote Brock, who gave such emphatic proof of energetic and sagacious
exertion in his subsequent course. "Should, however, the communication
between Montreal and Kingston be cut off, the fate of the troops in
this part of the province will be decided."[413] "The Montreal
frontier," said the officer selected by the Duke of Wellington to
report on the defences of Canada, "is the most important, and at
present [1826] confessedly most vulnerable and accessible part of
Canada."[414] There, then, was the direction for offensive operations
by the United States; preferably against Montreal, for, if successful,
a much larger region would be isolated and reduced. Montreal gone,
Kingston could receive no help from without; and, even if capable of
temporary resistance, its surrender would be but a question of time.
Coincidently with this military advance, naval development for the
control of the lakes should have proceeded, as a discreet precaution;
although, after the fall of Kingston and Montreal, there could have
been little use of an inland navy, for the British local resources
would then have been inadequate to maintain an opposing force.

Considered apart from the question of military readiness, in which
the United States was so lamentably deficient, the natural advantages
in her possession for the invasion of Canada were very great. The
Hudson River, Lake George, and Lake Champlain furnished a line of
water communication, for men and supplies, from the very heart of the
resources of the country, centring about New York. This was not indeed
continuous; but it was consecutive, and well developed. Almost the
whole of it lay within United States territory; and when the boundary
line on Champlain was reached, Montreal was but forty miles distant.
Towards Kingston, also, there was a similar line, by way of the Mohawk
River and Lake Oneida to Oswego, whence a short voyage on Ontario
reached the American naval station at Sackett's Harbor, thirty miles
from Kingston. As had been pointed out six months before the war
began, by General Armstrong, who became the United States Secretary of
War in January, 1813, when the most favorable conditions for
initiative had already been lost, these two lines were identical as
far as Albany. "This should be the place of rendezvous; because,
besides other recommendations, it is here that all the roads leading
from the central portion of the United States to the Canadas
diverge--a circumstance which, while it keeps up your enemy's doubts
as to your real point of attack, cannot fail to keep his means of
defence in a state of division."[415] The perplexity of an army, thus
uncertain upon which extreme of a line one hundred and fifty miles
long a blow will fall, is most distressing; and trebly so when, as in
this case, the means of communication from end to end are both scanty
and slow. "The conquest of Lower Canada," Sir James Craig had written,
"must still be effected by way of Lake Champlain;" but while this was
true, and dictated to the officer charged with the defence the
necessity of keeping the greater part of his force in that quarter,
it would be impossible wholly to neglect the exposure of the upper
section. This requirement was reflected in the disposition of the
British forces when war began; two thirds being below Montreal,
chiefly at Quebec, the remainder dispersed through Upper Canada. To
add to these advantages of the United States, trivial as was the naval
force of either party on Champlain, the preponderance at this moment,
and throughout the first year, was in her hands. She was also better
situated to enlarge her squadrons on all the lakes, because nearer the
heart of her power.

Circumstances thus had determined that, in general plan, the seaboard
represented the defensive scene of campaign for the United States,
while the land frontier should be that of offensive action. It will be
seen, with particular reference to the latter, that the character of
the front of operations prescribed the offensive in great and
concentrated force toward the St. Lawrence, with preparations and
demonstrations framed to keep the enemy doubtful to the last possible
moment as to where the blow should fall; while on the western
frontier, from Michilimackinac to Niagara, the defensive should have
been maintained, qualifying this term, however, by the already quoted
maxim of Napoleon, that no offensive disposition is complete which
does not keep in view, and provide for, offensive action, if
opportunity offer. Such readiness, if it leads to no more, at least
compels the opponent to retain near by a degree of force that weakens
by so much his resistance in the other quarter, against which the real
offensive campaign is directed.

Similarly, the seaboard, defensive in general relation to the national
plan as a whole, must have its own particular sphere of offensive
action, without which its defensive function is enfeebled, if not
paralyzed. Having failed to create before the war a competent navy,
capable of seizing opportunity, when offered, to act against hostile
divisions throughout the world, it was not possible afterwards to
retrieve this mistake. Under the circumstances existing in 1812, the
previous decade having been allowed by the country to pass in absolute
naval indifference, offensive measures were necessarily confined to
the injury of the enemy's commerce. Had a proper force existed,
abundant opportunity for more military action was sure to occur. The
characteristics of parts of the American coast prevented close
blockade, especially in winter; and the same violent winds which
forced an enemy's ships off, facilitated egress under circumstances
favoring evasion. Escape to the illimitable ocean then depended at
worst upon speed. This was the case at Boston, which Commodore
Bainbridge before the war predicted could not be effectually
blockaded; also at Narragansett, recommended for the same reason by
Commodore John Rodgers; and in measure at New York, though there the
more difficult and shoaler bar involved danger and delay to the
passage of heavy frigates. In this respect the British encountered
conditions contrary to those they had know before the French Atlantic
ports, where the wind which drove the blockaders off prevented the
blockaded from leaving. Once out and away, a squadron of respectable
force would be at liberty to seek and strike one of the minor
divisions of the enemy, imposing caution as to how he dispersed his
ships in face of such a chance. To the south, both the Delaware and
Chesapeake could be sealed almost hermetically by a navy so superior
as was that of Great Britain; for the sheltered anchorage within
enabled a fleet to lie with perfect safety across the path of all
vessels attempting to go out or in. South of this again, Wilmington,
Charleston, and Savannah, though useful commercial harbors, had not
the facilities, natural or acquired, for sustaining a military navy.
They were not maritime centres; the commerce of the South, even of
Baltimore with its famous schooners, being in peace carried on chiefly
by shipping which belonged elsewhere--New England or foreign. The
necessities of a number of armed ships could not there be supplied;
and furthermore, the comparatively moderate weather made the coast at
once more easy and less dangerous for an enemy to approach. These
ports, therefore, were entered only occasionally, and then by the
smaller American cruisers.

For these reasons the northern portion of the coast, with its rugged
shores and tempestuous weather, was the base of such offensive
operations as the diminutive numbers of the United States Navy
permitted. To it the national ships sought to return, for they could
enter with greater security, and had better prospects of getting out
again when they wished. In the Delaware, the Chesapeake, and on the
Southern coast, the efforts of the United States were limited to
action strictly, and even narrowly, defensive in scope. Occasionally,
a very small enemy's cruiser might be attacked; but for the most part
people were content merely to resist aggression, if attempted. The
harrying of the Chesapeake, and to a less extent of the Delaware, are
familiar stories; the total destruction of the coasting trade and the
consequent widespread distress are less known, or less remembered.
What is not at all appreciated is the deterrent effect upon the
perfect liberty enjoyed by the enemy to do as they pleased, which
would have been exercised by a respectable fighting navy; by a force
in the Northern ports, equal to the offensive, and ready for it, at
the time that Great Britain was so grievously preoccupied by the
numerous fleet which Napoleon had succeeded in equipping, from Antwerp
round to Venice. Of course, after his abdication in 1814, and the
release of the British navy and army, there was nothing for the
country to do, in the then military strength of the two nations, save
to make peace on the best terms attainable. Having allowed to pass
away, unresented and unimproved, years of insult, injury, and
opportunity, during which the gigantic power of Napoleon would have
been a substantial, if inert, support to its own efforts at redress,
it was the mishap of the United States Government to take up arms at
the very moment when the great burden which her enemy had been bearing
for years was about to fall from his shoulders forever.


[389] Ante, p. 144.

[390] Adams, History of the United States, vol. viii. chap. viii.

[391] Sir J. Carmichael Smyth, Précis of Wars in Canada, p. 116.

[392] To Monroe, May 4, 1806. Jefferson's Writings, Collected and
Edited by P.L. Ford, vol. viii. p. 450.

[393] Ibid., vol. vi. p. 75.

[394] Kingsford's History of Canada, vol. viii. p. 183. The author is
indebted to Major General Sir F. Maurice, and Major G. Le M. Gretton,
of the British Army, for extracts from the official records, from
which it appears that, excluding provincial corps, not to be accounted
regulars, the British troops in Canada numbered in January, 1812,
3,952; in July, 5,004.

[395] Giles, Annals of Congress, 1811-12, p. 51.

[396] June 13, 1812. Works of James Monroe, vol. v. p. 207.

[397] Prevost to Liverpool, July 15, 1812. Canadian Archives, Q. 118.

[398] Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 195.

[399] Ante, p. 71.

[400] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 584.

[401] Niles' Register, vol. ii. p. 119. "Official Returns in the
Department of State" are alleged as authority for the statement.
Monroe to Foster, May 30, 1812, mentions "a list in this office of
several thousand American seamen who have been impressed into the
British service." American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii.
p. 454.

[402] Kingsford's History of Canada, vol. viii. p. 111.

[403] Drummond to Prevost, Oct. 20, 1814. Report on Canadian Archives,
1896, Upper Canada, p. 9.

[404] Ibid., Oct. 15.

[405] Prevost to Bathurst, Aug. 14, 1814. Report on Canadian Archives,
1896, Lower Canada, p. 36.

[406] Travels, J.M. Duncan, vol. ii. p. 27.

[407] Life of Sir Isaac Brock, p. 127.

[408] Report on Canadian Archives, 1893, Lower Canada, p. 1.

[409] Ibid., p. 75.

[410] Ibid.

[411] Report on Canadian Archives, 1893, Lower Canada, p. 3.

[412] Brackenridge, War of 1812, pp. 57, 63, 65, 66.

[413] Life of Brock, p. 193.

[414] Smyth, Précis of the Wars in Canada, p. 167.

[415] Armstrong to Eustis, Jan. 2, 1812. Armstrong's Notices of the
War of 1812, vol. i, p. 238.



War was declared on June 18. On the 21st there was lying in the lower
harbor of New York a division of five United States vessels under the
command of Commodore John Rodgers. It consisted of three frigates, the
"President" and "United States," rated of 44 guns, the "Congress" of
38, the ship-rigged sloop of war "Hornet" of 18, and the brig "Argus"
of 16. This division, as it stood, was composed of two squadrons; that
of Rodgers himself, and that of Commodore Stephen Decatur, the latter
having assigned to him immediately the "United States," the
"Congress," and the "Argus." There belonged also to Rodgers'
particular squadron the "Essex," a frigate rated at 32 guns. Captain
David Porter, one of the most distinguished names in American naval
annals, commanded her then, and until her capture by a much superior
force, nearly two years later; but at this moment she was undergoing
repairs, a circumstance which prevented her from accompanying the
other vessels, and materially affected her subsequent history.

It may be mentioned, as an indication of naval policy, that although
Rodgers and Decatur each had more than one vessel under his control,
neither was given the further privilege and distinction, frequent in
such cases, of having a captain to command the particular ship on
which he himself sailed. This, when done, introduces a very
substantial change in the position of the officer affected. He is
removed from being only first among several equals, and is advanced to
a superiority of grade, in which he stands alone, with consequent
enhancement of authority. Rodgers was captain of the "President" as
well as commodore of the small body of vessels assigned to him;
Decatur held the same relation to the frigate "United States," and to
her consorts. Though apparently trivial, the circumstance is not
insignificant; for it indicates clearly that, so far as the Navy
Department then had any mind, it had not yet made it up as to whether
it would send out its vessels as single cruisers, or combine them into
divisions, for the one operation open to the United States Navy,
namely, the destruction of the enemy's commerce. With divisions
permanently constituted as such, propriety and effective action would
have required the additional dignity for the officer in general
charge, and they themselves doubtless would have asked for it; but for
ships temporarily associated, and liable at any moment to be
scattered, not only was the simple seniority of naval rank sufficient,
but more would have been inexpedient. The commodores, now such only by
courtesy and temporary circumstance, would suffer no derogation if
deprived of ships other than their own; whereas the more extensive
function, similarly curtailed, would become a mere empty show, a
humiliation which no office, civil or military, can undergo without

This indecision of the Department reflected the varying opinions of
the higher officers of the service, which in turn but reproduced
different schools of thought throughout all navies. Historically, as a
military operation, for the injury of an enemy's commerce and the
protection of one's own, it may be considered fairly demonstrated that
vessels grouped do more effective work than the same number scattered.
This is, of course, but to repeat the general military teaching of
operations of all kinds. It is not the keeping of the several vessels
side by side that constitutes the virtue of this disposition; it is
the placing them under a single head, thereby insuring co-operation,
however widely dispersed by their common chief under the emergency of
successive moments. Like a fan that opens and shuts, vessels thus
organically bound together possess the power of wide sweep, which
insures exertion over a great field of ocean, and at the same time
that of mutual support, because dependent upon and controlled from a
common centre. Such is concentration, reasonably understood; not
huddled together like a drove of cattle, but distributed with a regard
to a common purpose, and linked together by the effectual energy of a
single will.

There is, however, in the human mind an inveterate tendency to
dispersion of effort, due apparently to the wish to do at once as many
things as may be; a disposition also to take as many chances as
possible in an apparent lottery, with the more hope that some one of
them will come up successful. Not an aggregate big result, and one
only, whether hit or miss, but a division of resources and powers
which shall insure possible compensation in one direction for what is
not gained, or may even be lost, in another. The Navy Department, when
hostilities were imminent, addressed inquiries to several prominent
officers as to the best means of employing the very small total force
available. The question involved the direction of effort, as well as
the method; but as regards the former of these, the general routes
followed by British commerce, and the modes of protecting it, were so
far understood as to leave not much room for differences of opinion.

Rodgers may have been unconsciously swayed by the natural bias of an
officer whose seniority would insure him a division, if the
single-cruiser policy did not prevail. Of the replies given, however,
his certainly was the one most consonant with sound military
views.[416] Send a small squadron, of two or three frigates and a
sloop, to cruise on the coast of the British Islands, and send the
light cruisers to the West Indies; for, though he did not express it,
in the gentle breezes and smooth seas of the tropics small cruisers
have a much better chance to avoid capture by big ships than in the
heavy gales of the North Atlantic. This much may be termed the
distinctly offensive part of Rodgers' project. For the defensive,
employ the remainder of the frigates, singly or in squadron, to guard
our own seaboard; either directly, by remaining off the coast, or by
taking position in the track of the trade between Great Britain and
the St. Lawrence. Irrespective of direct captures there made, this
course would contribute to protect the access to home ports, by
drawing away the enemy's ships of war to cover their own threatened
commerce. Alike in the size of his foreign squadron, and in the touch
of uncertainty as to our own coasts, "singly or in squadron," Rodgers
reflected the embarrassment of a man whose means are utterly
inadequate to the work he wishes to do. One does not need to be a
soldier or a seaman to comprehend the difficulty of making ends meet
when there is not enough to go round.

Decatur and Bainbridge, whose written opinions are preserved, held
views greatly modified from those of Rodgers, or even distinctly
opposed to them. "The plan which appears to me best calculated for our
little navy to annoy the trade of Great Britain," wrote Decatur,[417]
"would be to send them out distant from our own coast, singly, or not
more than two frigates in company, without specific instructions;
relying upon the enterprise of their officers. Two frigates cruising
together would not be so easily traced by an enemy as a greater
number; their movements would be infinitely more rapid; they would be
sufficiently strong in most instances to attack a convoy, and the
probability is they would not meet with a superior cruising force. If,
however, they should meet a superior, and cannot avoid it, we would
not have to regret the whole of our marine crushed at one blow."
Bainbridge is yet more absolute. "I am anxious to see us all dispersed
about various seas. If we are kept together in squadron, or lying in
port, the whole are scarcely of more advantage than one ship. I wish
all our public vessels here [Boston] were dispersed in various ports,
for I apprehend it will draw speedily a numerous force of the enemy to
blockade or attack."[418] At the moment of writing this, Rodgers'
squadron was in Boston, having returned from a cruise, and the
"Constitution" also, immediately after her engagement with the

It will be observed that, in spirit even more than in letter, Rodgers'
leading conception is that of co-operation, combined action. First, he
would have a Department general plan, embracing in a comprehensive
scheme the entire navy and the ocean at large, in the British seas,
West Indies, and North Atlantic; each contributing, by its particular
action and impression, to forward the work of the others, and so of
the whole. Secondly, he intimates, not obscurely, though cautiously,
in each separate field the concerted action of several ships is better
than their disconnected efforts. Decatur and Bainbridge, on the
contrary, implicitly, and indeed explicitly, favor individual
movement. They would reject even combination by the Department--"no
specific instructions, rely upon the enterprise of the officers." Nor
will they have a local supervision or control in any particular; two
frigates at the most are to act together, singly even is preferable,
and they shall roam the seas at will.

There can be little doubt as to which scheme is sounder in general
principle. All military experience concurs in the general rule of
co-operative action; and this means concentration, under the liberal
definition before given--unity of purpose and subordination to a
central control. General rules, however, must be intelligently applied
to particular circumstances; and it will be found by considering the
special circumstances of British commerce, under the war conditions of
1812, that Rodgers' plan was particularly suited to injure it. It is
doubtless true that if merchant vessels were so dispersed over the
globe, that rarely more than one would be visible at a time, one ship
of war could take that one as well as a half-dozen could. But this was
not the condition. British merchant ships were not permitted so to
act. They were compelled to gather at certain centres, and thence,
when enough had assembled, were despatched in large convoys, guarded
by ships of war, in force proportioned to that disposable at the
moment by the local admiral, and to the anticipated danger.
Consequently, while isolated merchant ships were to be met, they were
but the crumbs that fell from the table, except in the near vicinity
of the British Islands themselves.

Such were the conditions while Great Britain had been at war with
France alone; but the declaration of the United States led at once to
increased stringency. All licenses to cross the Atlantic without
convoy were at once revoked, and every colonial and naval commander
lay under heavy responsibility to enforce the law of convoy. Insurance
was forfeited by breach of its requirements; and in case of parting
convoy, capture would at least hazard, if not invalidate, the policy.
Under all this compulsion, concentrated merchant fleets and heavy
guards became as far as possible the rule of action. With such
conditions it was at once more difficult for a single ship of war to
find, and when found to deal effectually with, a body of vessels which
on the one hand was large, and yet occupied but a small space
relatively to the great expanse of ocean over which the pursuer might
roam fruitlessly, missing continually the one moving spot he sought.
For such a purpose a well-handled squadron, scattering within
signal-distance from each other, or to meet at a rendezvous, was more
likely to find, and, having found, could by concerted action best
overcome the guard and destroy the fleet.

On June 22, 1812, the Navy Department issued orders for Rodgers,[419]
which are interesting as showing its ideas of operations. The two
squadrons then assembled under him were to go to sea, and there
separate. He himself, with the frigates "President," "Essex," and
"John Adams," sloop "Hornet," and the small brig "Nautilus," was to go
to the Capes of the Chesapeake, and thence cruise eastwardly, off and
on. Decatur's two frigates, with the "Argus," would cruise southwardly
from New York. It was expected that the two would meet from time to
time; and, should combined action be advisable, Rodgers had authority
to unite them under his broad pendant for that purpose. The object of
this movement was to protect the commerce of the country, which at
this time was expected to be returning in great numbers from the
Spanish peninsula; whither had been hurried every available ship, and
every barrel of flour in store, as soon as the news of the approaching
embargo of April 4 became public. "The great bulk of our returning
commerce," wrote the secretary, "will make for the ports between the
Chesapeake and our eastern extremities; and, in the protection to be
afforded, such ports claim particular attention."

The obvious comment on this disposition is that protection to the
incoming ships would be most completely afforded, not by the local
presence of either of these squadrons, but by the absence of the
enemy. This absence was best insured by beating him, if met; and in
the then size of the British Halifax fleet it was possible that a
detachment sent from it might be successfully engaged by the joint
division, though not by either squadron singly. The other adequate
alternative was to force the enemy to keep concentrated, and so to
cover as small a part as might be of the homeward path of the
scattered American trade. This also was best effected by uniting our
own ships. Without exaggerating the danger to the American squadrons,
needlessly exposed in detail by the Department's plan, the object in
view would have been attained as surely, and at less risk, by keeping
all the vessels together, even though they were retained between
Boston Bay and the Capes of the Chesapeake for the local defence of
commerce. In short, as was to be expected from the antecedents of the
Government, the scheme was purely and narrowly defensive; there was
not in it a trace of any comprehension of the principle that offence
is the surest defence. The opening words of its letter defined the
full measure of its understanding. "It has been judged expedient so to
employ our public armed vessels, as to afford to our returning
commerce all possible protection." It may be added, that to station on
the very spot where the merchant vessels were flocking in return,
divisions inferior to that which could be concentrated against them,
was very bad strategy; drawing the enemy by a double motive to the
place whence his absence was particularly desirable.

The better way was to influence British naval action by a distinct
offensive step; by a movement of the combined divisions sufficiently
obvious to inspire caution, but yet too vague to admit of precision of
direction or definite pursuit. In accordance with the general ideas
formulated in his letter, before quoted, Rodgers had already fixed
upon a plan, which, if successful, would inflict a startling blow to
British commerce and prestige, and at the same time would compel the
enemy to concentrate, thus diminishing his menace to American
shipping. It was known to him that a large convoy had sailed from
Jamaica for England about May 20. The invariable course of such bodies
was first to the north-northeast, parallel in a general sense to the
Gulf Stream and American coast, until they had cleared the northeast
trades and the belt of light and variable winds above them. Upon
approaching forty degrees north latitude, they met in full force the
rude west winds, as the Spanish navigators styled them, and before
them bore away to the English Channel. That a month after their
starting Rodgers should still have hoped to overtake them, gives a
lively impression of the lumbering slowness of trade movement under
convoy; but he counted also upon the far swifter joint speed of his
few and well-found ships. To the effective fulfilment of his double
object, defensive and offensive, however, he required more ships than
his own squadron, and he held his course dependent upon Decatur
joining him.[420]

    [Illustration: THE CHASE OF THE _Belvidera_
    From a drawing by Carlton T. Chapman.]

On June 21 Decatur did join, and later in the same day arrived a
Department order of June 18 with the Declaration of War. Within an
hour the division of five ships was under way for sea. In consequence
of this instant movement Rodgers did not receive the subsequent order
of the Department, June 22, the purport of which has been explained
and discussed. Standing off southeasterly from Sandy Hook, at 3 A.M.
of June 23 was spoken an American brig, which four days before had
seen the convoy steering east in latitude 36°, longitude 67°, or about
three hundred miles from where the squadron then was. Canvas was
crowded in pursuit, but three hours later was sighted in the northeast
a large sail heading toward the squadron. The course of all the
vessels was changed for her; but she, proving to be British,--the
"Belvidera," rated 32, and smaller than any one of the American
frigates,--speedily turned and took flight. Pursuit was continued all
that day and until half an hour before midnight, the "President"
leading as the fastest ship; but the British vessel, fighting for her
life, and with the friendly port of Halifax under her lee, could
resort to measures impossible to one whose plan of distant cruising
required complete equipment, and full stores of provisions and water.
Boats and spare spars and anchors were thrown overboard, and fourteen
tons of drinking water pumped out. Thus lightened, after being within
range of the "President's" guns for a couple of hours, the "Belvidera"
drew gradually away, and succeeded in escaping, having received and
inflicted considerable damage. In explanation of such a result between
two antagonists of very unequal size, it must be remembered that a
chasing ship of those days could not fire straight ahead; while in
turning her side to bring the guns to bear, as the "President" several
times did, she lost ground. The chased ship, on the other hand, from
the form of the stern, could use four guns without deviating from her

After some little delay in repairing, the squadron resumed pursuit of
the convoy. On June 29, and again on July 9, vessels were spoken which
reported encountering it; the latter the evening before. Traces of its
course also were thought to be found in quantities of cocoanut shell
and orange peel, passed on one occasion; but, though the chase was
continued to within twenty hours' sail of the English Channel, the
convoy itself was never seen. To this disappointing result atmospheric
conditions very largely contributed. From June 29, on the western edge
of the Great Banks, until July 13, when the pursuit was abandoned, the
weather was so thick that "at least six days out of seven" nothing was
visible over five miles away, and for long periods the vessels could
not even see one another at a distance of two hundred yards. The same
surrounding lasted to the neighborhood of Madeira, for which the
course was next shaped. After passing that island on June 21 return
was made toward the United States by way of the Azores, which were
sighted, and thence again to the Banks of Newfoundland and Cape Sable,
reaching Boston August 31, after an absence of seventy days.

Although Rodgers's plan had completely failed in what may properly be
called its purpose of offence, and he could report the capture of
"only seven merchant vessels, and those not valuable," he
congratulated himself with justice upon success on the defensive
side.[421] The full effect was produced, which he had anticipated from
the mere fact of a strong American division being at large, but seen
so near its own shores that nothing certain could be inferred as to
its movements or intentions. The "Belvidera," having lost sight of it
at midnight, could, upon her arrival in Halifax, give only the general
information that it was at sea; and Captain Byron, who commanded her,
thought with reason that the "President's" action warranted the
conclusion that the anticipated hostilities had been begun. He
therefore seized and brought in two or three American merchantmen; but
the British admiral, Sawyer, thinking there might possibly be some
mistake, like that of the meeting between the "President" and "Little
Belt" a year before, directed their release.

A very few days later, definite intelligence of the declaration of war
by the United States was received at Halifax. At that period, the
American seas from the equator to Labrador were for administrative
purposes divided by the British Admiralty into four commands: two in
the West Indies, centring respectively at Jamaica and Barbados; one
at Newfoundland; while the fourth, with its two chief naval bases of
Halifax and Bermuda, lay over against the United States, and embraced
the Atlantic coast-line in its field of operations. Admiral Sawyer now
promptly despatched a squadron, consisting of one small ship of the
line and three frigates, the "Shannon", 38, "Belvidera", 36, and
"Æolus", 32, which sailed July 5. Four days later, off Nantucket, it
was joined by the "Guerrière", 38, and July 14 arrived off Sandy Hook.
There Captain Broke, of the "Shannon", who by seniority of rank
commanded the whole force, "received the first intelligence of
Rodgers' squadron having put to sea."[422] As an American division of
some character had been known to be out since the "Belvidera" met it,
and as Rodgers on this particular day was within two days' sail of the
English Channel, the entire ignorance of the enemy as to his
whereabouts could not be more emphatically stated. The components of
the British force were such that no two of them could justifiably
venture to encounter his united command. Consequently, to remain
together was imposed as a military necessity, and it so continued for
some weeks. In fact, the first separation, that of the "Guerrière",
though apparently necessary and safe, was followed immediately by a

Rodgers was therefore justified in his claim concerning his cruise.
"It is truly unpleasant to be obliged to make a communication thus
barren of benefit to our country. The only consolation I,
individually, feel on the occasion is derived from knowing that our
being at sea obliged the enemy to concentrate a considerable portion
of his most active force, and thereby prevented his capturing an
incalculable amount of American property that would otherwise have
fallen a sacrifice." "My calculations were," he wrote on another
occasion, "even if I did not succeed in destroying the convoy, that
leaving the coast as we did would tend to distract the enemy, oblige
him to concentrate a considerable portion of his active navy, and at
the same time prevent his single cruisers from lying before any of our
principal ports, from their not knowing to which, or at what moment,
we might return."[423] This was not only a perfectly sound military
conception, gaining additional credit from the contrasted views of
Decatur and Bainbridge, but it was applied successfully at the most
critical moment of all wars, namely, when commerce is flocking home
for safety, and under conditions particularly hazardous to the United
States, owing to the unusually large number of vessels then out. "We
have been so completely occupied in looking out for Commodore Rodgers'
squadron," wrote an officer of the "Guerrière", "that we have taken
very few prizes."[424] President Madison in his annual message[425]
said: "Our trade, with little exception, has reached our ports, having
been much favored in it by the course pursued by a squadron of our
frigates under the command of Commodore Rodgers."


Nor was it only the offensive action of the enemy against the United
States' ports and commerce that was thus hampered. Unwonted defensive
measures were forced upon him. Uncertainty as to Rodgers' position and
intentions led Captain Broke, on July 29, to join a homeward-bound
Jamaica fleet, under convoy of the frigate "Thalia", some two or three
hundred miles to the southward and eastward of Halifax, and to
accompany it with his division five hundred miles on its voyage. The
place of this meeting shows that it was pre-arranged, and its distance
from the American coast, five hundred miles away from New York,
together with the length of the journey through which the additional
guard was thought necessary, emphasize the effect of Rodgers' unknown
situation upon the enemy's movements. The protection of their own
trade carried this British division a thousand miles away from the
coast it was to threaten. It is in such study of reciprocal action
between enemies that the lessons of war are learned, and its
principles established, in a manner to which the study of combats
between single ships, however brilliant, affords no equivalent. The
convoy that Broke thus accompanied has been curiously confused with
the one of which Rodgers believed himself in pursuit;[426] and the
British naval historian James chuckles obviously over the blunder of
the Yankee commodore, who returned to Boston "just six days after the
'Thalia', having brought home her charge in safety, had anchored in
the Downs." Rodgers may have been wholly misinformed as to there being
any Jamaica convoy on the way when he started; but as on July 29 he
had passed Madeira on his way home, it is obvious that the convoy
which Broke then joined south of Halifax could not be the one the
American squadron believed itself to be pursuing across the Atlantic a
month earlier.

Broke accompanied the merchant ships to the limits of the Halifax
station. Then, on August 6, receiving intelligence of Rodgers having
been seen on their homeward path, he directed the ship of the line,
"Africa", to go with them as far as 45° W., and for them thence to
follow latitude 52° N., instead of the usual more southerly
route.[427] After completing this duty the "Africa" was to return to
Halifax, whither the "Guerrière", which needed repairs, was ordered at
once. The remainder of the squadron returned off New York, where it
was again reported on September 10. The movement of the convoy, and
the "Guerrière's" need of refit, were linked events that brought
about the first single-ship action of the war; to account for which
fully the antecedent movements of her opponent must also be traced. At
the time Rodgers sailed, the United States frigate "Constitution", 44,
was lying at Annapolis, enlisting a crew. Fearing to be blockaded in
Chesapeake Bay, a position almost hopeless, her captain, Hull, hurried
to sea on July 12. July 17, the ship being then off Egg Harbor, New
Jersey, some ten or fifteen miles from shore, bound to New York,
Broke's vessels, which had then arrived from Halifax for the first
time in the war, were sighted from the masthead, to the northward and
inshore of the "Constitution". Captain Hull at first believed that
this might be the squadron of Rodgers, of whose actual movements he
had no knowledge, waiting for him to join in order to carry out
commands of the Department. Two hours later, another sail was
discovered to the northeast, off shore. The perils of an isolated
ship, in the presence of a superior force of possible enemies, imposed
caution, so Hull steered warily toward the single unknown. Attempting
to exchange signals, he soon found that he neither could understand
nor be understood. To persist on his course might surround him with
foes, and accordingly, about 11 P.M., the ship was headed to the
southeast and so continued during the night.

    [Illustration: THE FORECASTLE OF THE _Constitution_ DURING THE
    From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl.]

The next morning left no doubt as to the character of the strangers,
among whom was the "Guerrière"; and there ensued a chase which,
lasting from daylight of July 18th to near noon of the 20th, has
become historical in the United States Navy, from the attendant
difficulties and the imminent peril of the favorite ship endangered.
Much of the pursuit being in calm, and on soundings, resort was had to
towing by boats, and to dragging the ship ahead by means of light
anchors dropped on the bottom. In a contest of this kind, the ability
of a squadron to concentrate numbers on one or two ships, which can
first approach and cripple the enemy, thus holding him till their
consorts come up, gives an evident advantage over the single opponent.
On the other hand, the towing boats of the pursuer, being toward the
stern guns of the pursued, are the first objects on either side to
come under fire, and are vulnerable to a much greater degree than the
ships themselves. Under such conditions, accurate appreciation of
advantages, and unremitting use of small opportunities, are apt to
prove decisive. It was by such diligent and skilful exertion that the
"Constitution" effected her escape from a position which for a time
seemed desperate; but it should not escape attention that thus early
in the war, before Great Britain had been able to re-enforce her
American fleet, one of our frigates was unable to enter our principal
seaport. "Finding the ship so far to the southward and eastward,"
reported Hull, "and the enemy's squadron stationed off New York, which
would make it impossible to get in there, I determined to make for
Boston, to receive your further orders."

On July 28 he writes from Boston that there were as yet no British
cruisers in the Bay, nor off the New England coast; that great numbers
of merchant vessels were daily arriving from Europe; and that he was
warning them off the southern ports, advising that they should enter
Boston. He reasoned that the enemy would now disperse, and probably
send two frigates off the port. In this he under-estimated the
deterrent effect of Rodgers' invisible command, but the apprehension
hastened his own departure, and on August 2 he sailed again with the
first fair wind. Running along the Maine coast to the Bay of Fundy, he
thence went off Halifax; and meeting nothing there, in a three or four
days' stay, moved to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to intercept the trade
of Canada and Nova Scotia. Here in the neighborhood of Cape Race some
important captures were made, and on August 15 an American brig
retaken, which gave information that Broke's squadron was not far
away. This was probably a fairly correct report, as its returning
course should have carried it near by a very few days before. Hull
therefore determined to go to the southward, passing close to Bermuda,
to cruise on the southern coast of the United States. In pursuance of
this decision the "Constitution" had run some three hundred miles,
when at 2 P.M. of August 19, being then nearly midway of the route
over which Broke three weeks before had accompanied the convoy, a sail
was sighted to the eastward, standing west. This proved to be the
"Guerrière," on her return to Halifax, whither she was moving very
leisurely, having traversed only two hundred miles in twelve days.

As the "Constitution," standing south-southwest for her destination,
was crossing the "Guerrière's" bows, her course was changed, in order
to learn the character of the stranger. By half-past three she was
recognized to be a large frigate, under easy sail on the starboard
tack; which, the wind being northwesterly, gives her heading from
west-southwest to southwest. The "Constitution" was to windward. At
3.45 the "Guerrière," without changing her course, backed her
maintopsail, the effect of which was to lessen her forward movement,
leaving just way enough to keep command with her helm (G 1). To be
thus nearly motionless assured the steadiest platform for aiming the
guns, during the period most critical for the "Constitution," when, to
get near, she must steer nearly head on, toward her opponent. The
disadvantage of this approach is that the enemy's shot, if they hit,
pass from end to end of the ship, a distance, in those days, nearly
fourfold that of from side to side; and besides, the line from bow to
stern was that on which the guns and the men who work them were
ranged. The risks of grave injury were therefore greatly increased by
exposure to this, which by soldiers is called enfilading, but at sea a
raking fire; and to avoid such mischance was one of the principal
concerns of a captain in a naval duel.

    [Illustration: CAPTAIN ISAAC HULL
    From the engraving by D. Edwin, after the painting by Gilbert

Seeing his enemy thus challenge him to come on, Hull, who had been
carrying sail in order to close, now reduced his canvas to topsails,
and put two reefs into them, bringing by the wind for that object (C
1). All other usual preparations were made at the same time; the
"Constitution" during them lying side to wind, out of gunshot,
practically motionless, like her antagonist. When all was ready, the
ship kept away again, heading toward the starboard quarter of the
British vessel; that is, she was on her right-hand side, steering
toward her stern (C 2). As this, if continued, would permit her to
pass close under the stern, and rake, Captain Dacres waited until he
thought her within gunshot, when he fired the guns on the right-hand
side of the vessel--the starboard broadside--and immediately wore
ship; that is, turned the "Guerrière" round, making a half circle, and
bringing her other side toward the "Constitution," to fire the other,
or port, battery (G 2). It will be seen that, as both ships were
moving in the same general direction, away from the wind, the American
coming straight on, while the British retired by a succession of
semicircles, each time this manoeuvre was repeated the ships would be
nearer together. This was what both captains purposed, but neither
proposed to be raked in the operation. Hence, although the
"Constitution" did not wear, she "yawed" several times; that is,
turned her head from side to side, so that a shot striking would not
have full raking effect, but angling across the decks would do
proportionately less damage. Such methods were common to all actions
between single ships.

These proceedings had lasted about three quarters of an hour, when
Dacres, considering he now could safely afford to let his enemy close,
settled his ship on a course nearly before the wind, having it a
little on her left side (G 3). The American frigate was thus behind
her, receiving the shot of her stern guns, to which the bow fire of
those days could make little effective reply. To relieve this
disadvantage, by shortening its duration, a big additional sail--the
main topgallantsail--was set upon the "Constitution," which, gathering
fresh speed, drew up on the left-hand side of the "Guerrière," within
pistol-shot, at 6 P.M., when the battle proper fairly began (3). For
the moment manoeuvring ceased, and a square set-to at the guns
followed, the ships running side by side. In twenty minutes the
"Guerrière's" mizzen-mast[428] was shot away, falling overboard on the
starboard side; while at nearly the same moment, so Hull reported, her
main-yard went in the slings.[429] This double accident reduced her
speed; but in addition the mast with all its hamper, dragging in the
water on one side, both slowed the vessel and acted as a rudder to
turn her head to starboard,--from the "Constitution." The sail-power
of the latter being unimpaired would have quickly carried her so far
ahead that her guns would no longer bear, if she continued the same
course. Hull, therefore, as soon as he saw the spars of his antagonist
go overboard, put the helm to port, in order to "oblige him to do the
same, or suffer himself to be raked by our getting across his
bows."[430] The fall of the "Guerrière's" mast effected what was
desired by Hull, who continues: "On our helm being put to port the
ship came to, and gave us an opportunity of pouring in upon his
larboard bow several broadsides." The disabled state of the British
frigate, and the promptness of the American captain, thus enabled the
latter to take a raking position upon the port (larboard) bow of the
enemy; that is, ahead, but on the left side (4).


The "Constitution" ranged on very slowly across the "Guerrière's"
bows, from left to right; her sails shaking in the wind, because the
yards could not be braced, the braces having been shot away. From this
commanding position she gave two raking broadsides, to which her
opponent could reply only feebly from a few forward guns; then, the
vessels being close together, and the British forging slowly ahead,
threatening to cross the American's stern, the helm of the latter was
put up. As the "Constitution" turned away, the bowsprit of the
"Guerrière" lunged over her quarter-deck, and became entangled by her
port mizzen-rigging; the result being that the two fell into the same
line, the "Guerrière" astern and fastened to her antagonist as
described. (5) In her crippled condition for manoeuvring, it was
possible that the British captain might seek to retrieve the fortunes
of the day by boarding, for which the present situation seemed to
offer some opportunity; and from the reports of the respective
officers it is clear that the same thought occurred to both parties,
prompting in each the movement to repel boarders rather than to board.
A number of men clustered on either side at the point of contact, and
here, by musketry fire, occurred some of the severest losses. The
first lieutenant and sailing-master of the "Constitution" fell
wounded, and the senior officer of marines dead, shot through the
head. All these were specially concerned where boarding was at issue.
This period was brief; for at 6.30 the fore and main-masts of the
British frigate gave way together, carrying with them all the head
booms, and she lay a helpless hulk in the trough of a heavy sea,
rolling the muzzles of her guns under. A sturdy attempt to get her
under control with the spritsail[431] was made; but this resource, a
bare possibility to a dismasted ship in a fleet action, with friends
around, was only the assertion of a sound never-give-up tradition,
against hopeless odds, in a naval duel with a full-sparred antagonist.
The "Constitution" hauled off for half an hour to repair damages, and
upon returning received the "Guerrière's" surrender. It was then dark,
and the night was passed in transferring the prisoners. When day
broke, the prize was found so shattered that it would be impossible to
bring her into port. She was consequently set on fire at 3 P.M., and
soon after blew up.

    [Illustration: THE BURNING OF THE _Guerrière_
    From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl.]

In this fight the American frigate was much superior in force to her
antagonist. The customary, and upon the whole justest, mode of
estimating relative power, was by aggregate weight of shot discharged
in one broadside; and when, as in this case, the range is so close
that every gun comes into play, it is perhaps a useless refinement to
insist on qualifying considerations. The broadside of the
"Constitution" weighed 736 pounds, that of the "Guerrière" 570. The
difference therefore in favor of the American vessel was thirty per
cent, and the disparity in numbers of the crews was even greater. It
is not possible, therefore, to insist upon any singular credit, in the
mere fact that under such odds victory falls to the heavier vessel.
What can be said, after a careful comparison of the several reports,
is that the American ship was fought warily and boldly, that her
gunnery was excellent, that the instant advantage taken of the enemy's
mizzen-mast falling showed high seamanlike qualities, both in
promptness and accuracy of execution; in short, that, considering the
capacity of the American captain as evidenced by his action, and the
odds in his favor, nothing could be more misplaced than Captain
Dacres' vaunt before the Court: "I am so well aware that the success
of my opponent was owing to fortune, that it is my earnest wish to be
once more opposed to the 'Constitution,' with the same officers and
crew under my command, in a frigate of similar force to the
'Guerrière.'"[432] In view of the difference of broadside weight, this
amounts to saying that the capacity and courage of the captain and
ship's company of the "Guerrière," being over thirty per cent greater
than those of the "Constitution," would more than compensate for the
latter's bare thirty per cent superiority of force. It may safely be
said that one will look in vain through the accounts of the
transaction for any ground for such assumption. A ready acquiescence
in this opinion was elicited, indeed, from two witnesses, the master
and a master's mate, based upon a supposed superiority of fire, which
the latter estimated to be in point of rapidity as four broadsides to
every three of the "Constitution."[433] But rapidity is not the only
element of superiority; and Dacres' satisfaction on this score,
repeatedly expressed, might have been tempered by one of the facts he
alleged in defence of his surrender--that "on the larboard side of the
'Guerrière' there were about thirty shot which had taken effect about
five sheets of copper down,"--far below the water-line.

Captain Hull with the "Constitution" reached Boston August 30, just
four weeks after his departure; and the following day Commodore
Rodgers with his squadron entered the harbor. It was a meeting between
disappointment and exultation; for so profound was the impression
prevailing in the United States, and not least in New England,
concerning the irreversible superiority of Great Britain on the sea,
that no word less strong than "exultation" can do justice to the
feeling aroused by Hull's victory. Sight was lost of the disparity of
force, and the pride of the country fixed, not upon those points which
the attentive seaman can recognize as giving warrant for confidence,
but upon the supposed demonstration of superiority in equal combat.

Consolation was needed; for since Rodgers' sailing much had occurred
to dishearten and little to encourage. The nation had cherished few
expectations from its tiny, navy; but concerning its arms on land the
advocates of war had entertained the unreasoning confidence of those
who expect to reap without taking the trouble to sow. In the first
year of President Jefferson's administration, 1801, the "peace
establishment" of the regular army, in pursuance of the policy of the
President and party in power, was reduced to three thousand men. In
1808, under the excitement of the outrage upon the "Chesapeake" and of
the Orders in Council, an "additional military force" was authorized,
raising the total to ten thousand. The latter measure seems for some
time to have been considered temporary in character; for in a return
to Congress in January, 1810, the numbers actually in service are
reported separately, as 2,765 and 4,189; total, 6,954, exclusive of
staff officers.

General Scott, who was one of the captains appointed under the Act of
1808, has recorded that the condition of both soldiers and officers
was in great part most inefficient.[434] Speaking of the later
commissions, he said, "Such were the results of Mr. Jefferson's low
estimate of, or rather contempt for, the military character, the
consequence of the old hostility between him and the principal
officers who achieved our independence."[435] In January, 1812, when
war had in effect been determined upon in the party councils, a bill
was passed raising the army to thirty-five thousand; but in the
economical and social condition of the period the service was under a
popular disfavor, to which the attitude of recent administrations
doubtless contributed greatly, and recruiting went on very slowly.
There was substantially no military tradition in the country. Thirty
years of peace had seen the disappearance of the officers whom the War
of Independence had left in their prime; and the Government fell into
that most facile of mistakes, the choice of old men, because when
youths they had worn an epaulette, without regarding the experience
they had had under it, or since it was laid aside.

Among the men thus selected were Henry Dearborn, for senior major
general, to command the northern division of the country, from Niagara
to Boston Bay and New York; and William Hull, a brigadier, for the
Northwestern frontier, centring round Detroit. The latter, who was
uncle to Captain Hull of the "Constitution," seems to have been chosen
because already civil Governor of Michigan Territory. President
Madison thus reversed the practice of Great Britain, which commonly
was to choose a military man for civil governor of exposed provinces.
Hull accepted with reluctance, and under pressure. He set out for his
new duties, expecting that he would receive in his distant and
perilous charge that measure of support which results from active
operations at some other point of the enemy's line, presumably at
Niagara. In this he was disappointed. Dearborn was now sixty-one, Hull
fifty-nine. Both had served with credit during the War of
Independence, but in subordinate positions; and Dearborn had been
Secretary of War throughout Jefferson's two terms.

Opposed to these was the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, Isaac
Brock, a major-general in the British army. A soldier from boyhood, he
had commanded a regiment in active campaign at twenty-eight. He was
now forty-two, and for the last ten years had served in North America;
first with his regiment, and later as a general officer in command of
the troops. In October, 1811, he was appointed to the civil government
of the province. He was thoroughly familiar with the political and
military conditions surrounding him, and his mind had long been
actively engaged in considering probable contingencies, in case war,
threatening since 1807, should become actual. In formulated purpose
and resolve, he was perfectly prepared for immediate action, as is
shown by his letters, foreshadowing his course, to his superior, Sir
George Prevost, Governor General of Canada. He predicted that the
pressure of the Indians upon the western frontier of the United States
would compel that country to keep there a considerable force, the
presence of which would naturally tend to more than mere defensive
measures. With the numerical inferiority of the British, the
co-operation of the Indians was essential. To preserve Upper Canada,
therefore, Michilimackinac and Detroit must be reduced. Otherwise the
savages could not be convinced that Great Britain would not sacrifice
them at a peace, as they believed her to have done in 1794, by Jay's
Treaty. In this he agreed with Hull, who faced the situation far more
efficiently than his superiors, and at the same moment was writing
officially, "The British cannot hold Upper Canada without the
assistance of the Indians, and that they cannot obtain if we have an
adequate force at Detroit."[436] Brock deemed it vital that
Amherstburg, nearly opposite Detroit, should be held in force; both to
resist the first hostile attack, and as a base whence to proceed to
offensive operations. He apprehended, and correctly, as the event
proved, that Niagara would be chosen by the Americans as the line for
their main body to penetrate with a view to conquest. This was his
defensive frontier; the western, the offensive wing of his campaign.
These leading ideas dictated his preparations, imperfect from paucity
of means, but sufficient to meet the limping, flaccid measures of the
United States authorities.

To this well-considered view the War Department of the United States
opposed no ordered plan of any kind, no mind prepared with even the
common precautions of every-day life. This unreadiness, plainly
manifested by its actions, was the more culpable because the
unfortunate Hull, in his letter of March 6, 1812, just quoted, a month
before his unwilling acceptance of his general's commission, had laid
clearly before it the leading features of the military and political
situation, recognized by him during his four years of office as
Governor of the Territory. In this cogent paper, amid numerous
illuminative details, he laid unmistakable emphasis on the decisive
influence of Detroit upon the whole Northwest, especially in
determining the attitude of the Indians. He dwelt also upon the
critical weakness of the communications on which the tenure of it
depended, and upon the necessity of naval superiority to secure them.
This expression of his opinion was in the hands of the Government over
three months before the declaration of war. As early as January,
however, Secretary Eustis had been warned by Armstrong, who
subsequently succeeded him in the War Department, that Detroit,
otherwise advantageous in position, "would be positively bad, unless
your naval means have an ascendency on Lake Erie."[437]

Unfortunately for himself and for the country, Hull, upon visiting the
capital in the spring, did not adhere firmly to his views as to the
necessity for a lake navy. After the capitulation, President Madison
wrote to his friend, John Nicholas, "The failure of our calculations
with respect to the expedition under Hull needs no comment. The worst
of it was that we were misled by a reliance, authorized by himself, on
its [the expedition] securing to us the command of the lakes."[438]
General Peter B. Porter, of the New York militia, a member also of
the House of Representatives, who served well on the Niagara frontier,
and was in no wise implicated by Hull's surrender, testified before
the Court Martial, "I was twice at the President's with General Hull,
when the subject of a navy was talked over. At first it was agreed to
have one; but afterwards it was agreed to abandon it, doubtless as
inexpedient."[439] The indications from Hull's earlier correspondence
are that for the time he was influenced by the war spirit, and
developed a hopefulness of achievement which affected his former and
better judgment.

On May 25, three weeks before the declaration of war, Hull took
command of the militia assembled at Dayton, Ohio. On June 10, he was
at Urbana, where a regiment of regular infantry joined. June 30, he
reached the Maumee River, and thence reported that his force was over
two thousand, rank and file.[440] He had not yet received official
intelligence of war having been actually declared, but all
indications, including his own mission itself, pointed to it as
imminent. Nevertheless, he here loaded a schooner with military
stores, and sent her down the river for Detroit, knowing that, twenty
miles before reaching there, she must pass near the British Fort
Malden, on the Detroit River covering Amherstburg; and this while the
British had local naval superiority. In taking this risk, the very
imprudence of which testifies the importance of water transportation
to Detroit, Hull directed his aids to forward his baggage by the same
conveyance; and with it, contrary to his intention, were despatched
also his official papers. The vessel, being promptly seized by the
boats of the British armed brig "Hunter," was taken into Malden,
whence Colonel St. George, commanding the district, sent the captured
correspondence to Brock. "Till I received these letters," remarked
the latter, "I had no idea General Hull was advancing with so large a

When Brock thus wrote, July 20, he was at Fort George, on the shore of
Ontario, near Niagara River, watching the frontier where he expected
the main attack. He had already struck his first blow. Immediately
upon being assured of the declaration of war, on June 28, he had
despatched a letter to St. Joseph's, directing all preparations to be
made for proceeding against Mackinac; the final determination as to
offensive or defensive action being very properly left to the officer
there in command. The latter, thus aware of his superior's wishes,
started July 16, with some six hundred men,--of whom four hundred were
Indians,--under convoy of the armed brig "Caledonia," belonging to the
Northwestern Fur Company. The next day he appeared before the American
post, where the existence of war was yet unknown. The garrison
numbered fifty-seven, including three officers; being about one third
the force reported necessary for the peace establishment by Mr.
Jefferson's Secretary of War, in 1801. The place was immediately
surrendered. Under all the conditions stated there is an entertaining
ingenuousness in the reference made to this disaster by President
Madison: "We have but just learned that the important post of
Michilimackinac has fallen into the hands of the enemy, but from what
cause remains to be known."[442]

Brock received this news at Toronto, July 29; but not till August 3 did
it reach Hull, by the arrival of the paroled prisoners. He was then on
the Canada side, at Sandwich, opposite Detroit; having crossed with
from fourteen to sixteen hundred men on July 12. This step was taken on
the strength of a discretionary order from the Secretary of War, that
if "the force under your command be equal to the enterprise, consistent
with the safety of your own post, you will take possession of Malden,
and extend your conquests as circumstances may justify." It must be
added, however, in justice to the Administration, that the same letter,
received July 9, three days before the crossing, contained the warning,
"It is also proper to inform you that an adequate force cannot soon be
relied on for the reduction of the enemy's posts below you."[443] This
bears on the question of Hull's expectation of support by diversion on
the Niagara frontier, and shows that he had fair notice on that score.
That over-confidence still possessed him seems apparent from a letter
to the secretary dated July 7, in which he said, "In your letter of
June 18, you direct me to adopt measures for the security of the
country, and to await further orders. I regret that I have not larger
latitude."[444] Now he received it, and his invasion of Canada was the
result. It is vain to deny his liberty of action, under such
instructions, but it is equally vain to deny the responsibility of a
superior who thus authorizes action, and not obscurely intimates a
wish, under general military conditions perfectly well known, such as
existed with reference to Hull's communications. Hull's attempt to
justify his movement on the ground of pressure from subordinates, moral
effect upon his troops, is admissible only if his decision were
consistently followed by the one course that gave a chance of success.
As a military enterprise the attempt was hopeless, unless by a rapid
advance upon Malden he could carry the works by instant storm. In that
event the enemy's army and navy, losing their local base of operations,
would have to seek one new and distant, one hundred and fifty miles to
the eastward, at Long Point; whence attempts against the American
positions could be only by water, with transportation inadequate to
carrying large bodies of men. The American general thus might feel
secure against attacks on his communications with Ohio, the critical
condition of which constituted the great danger of the situation,
whether at Detroit or Sandwich. Hull himself, ten days after crossing,
wrote, "It is in the power of this army to take Malden by storm, but it
would be attended, in my opinion, with too great a sacrifice under the
present circumstances."[445]

Instead of prompt action, two days were allowed to pass. Then, July
14, a council of war decided that immediate attack was inexpedient,
and delay advisable. This conclusion, if correct, condemned the
invasion, and should have been reached before it was attempted. The
military situation was this: Hull's line of supplies and
re-enforcements was reasonably secure from hostile interference
between southern Ohio and the Maumee; at which river proper
fortification would permit the establishment of an advanced depot.
Thence to Detroit was seventy-two miles, through much of which the
road passed near the lake shore. It was consequently liable to attack
from the water, so long as that was controlled by the enemy; while by
its greater distance from the centre of American population in the
West, it was also more exposed to Indian hostilities than the portion
behind the Maumee. Under these circumstances, Detroit itself was in
danger of an interruption of supplies and re-enforcements, amounting
possibly to isolation. It was open to the enemy to land in its rear,
secure of his own communications by water, and with a fair chance, in
case of failure, to retire by the way he came; for retreat could be
made safely in very small vessels or boats, so long as Malden was held
in force.

The reduction of Malden might therefore secure Detroit, by depriving
the enemy of a base suitable for using his lake power against its
communications. Unless this was accomplished, any advance beyond
Detroit with the force then at hand merely weakened that place, by
just the amount of men and means expended, and was increasingly
hazardous when it entailed crossing water. A sudden blow may snatch
safety under such conditions; but to attempt the slow and graduated
movements of a siege, with uncertain communications supporting it, is
to court disaster. The holding of Detroit being imperative, efforts
external to it should have been chiefly exerted on its rear, and upon
its front only to prevent the easy passage of the enemy. In short,
when Detroit was reached, barring the chance of a _coup de main_ upon
Malden, Hull's position needed to be made more solid, not more
extensive. As it was, the army remained at Sandwich, making abortive
movements toward the river Canard, which covered the approach to
Malden, and pushing small foraging parties up the valley of the
Thames. The greatest industry was used, Hull reported, in making
preparations to besiege, but it was not till August 7, nearly four
weeks after crossing, that the siege guns were ready; and then the
artillery officers reported that it would be extremely difficult, if
not impossible, to take them to Malden by land, and by water still
more so, because the ship of war "Queen Charlotte," carrying eighteen
24-pounders, lay off the mouth of the Canard, commanding the stream.

The first impression produced by the advance into Canada had been
propitious to Hull. He himself in his defence admitted that the
enemy's force had diminished, great part of their militia had left
them, and many of their Indians.[446] This information of the American
camp corresponded with the facts. Lieut. Colonel St. George,
commanding Fort Malden, reported the demoralized condition of his
militia. Three days after Hull crossed he had left but four hundred
and seventy-one, in such a state as to be absolutely inefficient.[447]
Colonel Procter, who soon afterwards relieved him, could on July 18
muster only two hundred and seventy Indians by the utmost exertion,
and by the 26th these had rather decreased.[448] Professing to see no
immediate danger, he still asked for five hundred more regulars. At no
time before Hull recrossed did he have two hundred and fifty.[449]
Under Hull's delay these favorable conditions disappeared. British
re-enforcements, small but veteran, arrived; the local militia
recovered; and the Indians, with the facile changefulness of savages,
passed from an outwardly friendly bearing over to what began to seem
the winning side. Colonel Procter then initiated the policy of
threatening Hull's communications from the lake side. A body of
Indians sent across by him on August 4 defeated an American detachment
marching to protect a convoy from the Maumee. This incident, coming
upon accumulating adverse indications, and coinciding with the bad
news received from Mackinac, aroused Hull to the essential danger of
his situation. August 8 he recrossed to Detroit. August 9 another
vigorous effort was made by the enemy to destroy a detachment sent out
to establish communications with the rear. Although the British were
defeated, the Americans were unable to proceed, and returned to the
town without supplies. In the first of these affairs some more of
Hull's correspondence was captured, which revealed his apprehensions,
and the general moral condition of his command, to an opponent capable
of appreciating their military significance.

Brock had remained near Niagara, detained partly by the political
necessity of meeting the provincial legislature, partly to watch over
what he considered the more exposed portion of his military charge;
for a disaster to it, being nearer the source of British power, would
have upon the fortunes of the West an effect even more vital than a
reverse there would exert upon the East. Being soon satisfied that the
preparations of the United States threatened no immediate action, and
finding that Hull's troops were foraging to a considerable distance
east of Sandwich, along the Thames, he had decided to send against
them a small body of local troops with a number of Indians, while he
himself gathered some militia and went direct by water to Malden. To
his dismay, the Indians declined to assist, alleging their intention
to remain neutral; upon which the militia also refused, saying they
were afraid to leave their homes unguarded, till it was certain which
side the savages would take. On July 25 Brock wrote that his plans
were thus ruined; but July 29 it became known that Mackinac had
fallen, and on that day the militia about York [Toronto], where he
then was, volunteered for service in any part of the province. August
8 he embarked with three hundred of them, and a few regulars, at Long
Point, on the north shore of Lake Erie; whence he coasted to Malden,
arriving on the 13th.

Meanwhile batteries had been erected opposite Detroit, which opened on
the evening of August 15, the fort replying; but slight harm was done
on either side. Next day Brock crossed the greater part of his force,
landing three miles below Detroit. His little column of assault
consisted of 330 regulars, 400 militia, and 600 Indians, the latter in
the woods covering the left flank.[450] The effective Americans
present were by that morning's report 1,060;[451] while their field
artillery, additional to that mounted in the works, was much superior
to that of the enemy, was advantageously posted, and loaded with
grape. Moreover, they had the fort, on which to retire.

Brock's movements were audacious. Some said nothing could be more
desperate; "but I answer, that the state of Upper Canada admitted of
nothing but desperate remedies."[452] The British general had served
under Nelson at Copenhagen, and quoted him here. He knew also, through
the captured correspondence, that his opponent was a prey to a
desperation very different in temper from his own, and had lost the
confidence of his men. He had hoped, by the threatening position
assumed between the town and its home base, to force Hull to come out
and attack; but learning now that the garrison was weakened by a
detachment of three hundred and fifty, despatched two days before
under Colonel McArthur to open intercourse with the Maumee by a
circuitous road, avoiding the lake shore, he decided to assault at
once. When the British column had approached within a mile, Hull
withdrew within the works all his force, including the artillery, and
immediately afterward capitulated. The detachment under McArthur, with
another from the state of Ohio on its way to join the army, were
embraced in the terms; Brock estimating the whole number surrendered
at not less than twenty-five hundred. A more important capture, under
the conditions, was an American brig, the "Adams," not yet armed, but
capable of use as a ship of war, for which purpose she had already
been transferred from the War Department to the Navy.

In his defence before the Court Martial, which in March, 1814, tried
him for his conduct of the campaign, Hull addressed himself to three
particulars, which he considered to be the principal features in the
voluminous charges and specifications drawn against him. These were,
"the delay at Sandwich, the retreat from Canada, and the surrender at
Detroit."[453] Concerning these, as a matter of military criticism, it
may be said with much certainty that if conditions imposed the delay
at Sandwich, they condemned the advance to it, and would have
warranted an earlier retreat. The capitulation he justified on the
ground that resistance could not change the result, though it might
protract the issue. Because ultimate surrender could not be averted,
he characterized life lost in postponing it as blood shed uselessly.
The conclusion does not follow from the premise; nor could any
military code accept the maxim that a position is to be yielded as
soon as it appears that it cannot be held indefinitely. Delay, so long
as sustained, not only keeps open the chapter of accidents for the
particular post, but supports related operations throughout the
remainder of the field of war. Tenacious endurance, if it effected no
more, would at least have held Brock away from Niagara, whither he
hastened within a week after the capitulation, taking with him a force
which now could be well spared from the westward. No one military
charge can be considered as disconnected; therefore no commander has a
right to abandon defence while it is possible to maintain it, unless
he also knows that it cannot affect results elsewhere; and this
practically can never be certain. The burden of anxieties, of dangers
and difficulties, actual and possible, weighing upon Brock, were full
as great as those upon Hull, for on his shoulders rested both Niagara
and Malden. His own resolution and promptitude triumphed because of
the combined inefficiency of Hull and Dearborn. He scarcely could have
avoided disaster at one end or the other of the line, had either
opponent been thoroughly competent.

There was yet another reason which weighed forcibly with Hull, and
probably put all purely military considerations out of court. This
was the dread of Indian outrage and massacre. The general trend of the
testimony, and Hull's own defence, go to show a mind overpowered by
the agony of this imagination. After receiving word of the desertion
of two companies, he said, "I now became impatient to put the place
under the protection of the British; I knew that there were thousands
of savages around us." These thousands were not at hand. Not till
after September 1 did as many as a hundred arrive from the north--from
Mackinac.[454] In short, unless what Cass styled the philanthropic
reason can be accepted,--and in the opinion of the present writer it
cannot,--Hull wrote the condemnation of his action in his own defence.
"I shall now state what force the enemy brought, or might bring,
against me. I say, gentlemen, _might bring_, because it was that
consideration which induced the surrender, and not the force which was
actually landed on the American shore on the morning of the 16th. It
is possible I might have met and repelled that force; and if I had no
further to look than the event of a contest at that time, I should
have trusted to the issue of a battle.... The force brought against me
I am very confident was not less than one thousand whites, and as many
savage warriors."[455]

The reproach of this mortifying incident cannot be lifted from off
Hull's memory; but for this very reason, in weighing the
circumstances, it is far less than justice to forget his years,
verging on old age, his long dissociation from military life, his
personal courage frequently shown during the War of Independence, nor
the fact that, though a soldier on occasion, he probably never had the
opportunity to form correct soldierly standards. To the credit account
should also be carried the timely and really capable presentation of
the conditions of the field of operations already quoted, submitted by
him to the Government, which should not have needed such
demonstration. The mortification of the country fastened on his name;
but had the measures urged by him been taken, had his expedition
received due support by energetic operations elsewhere, events need
not have reached the crisis to which he proved unequal. The true
authors of the national disaster and its accompanying humiliation are
to be sought in the national administrations and legislatures of the
preceding ten or twelve years, upon whom rests the responsibility for
the miserably unprepared condition in which the country was plunged
into war. Madison, too tardily repentant, wrote, "The command of the
Lakes by a superior force on the water ought to have been a
fundamental part in the national policy from the moment the peace [of
1783] took place. What is now doing for the command proves what may be


[416] Captains' Letters, June 3, 1812. Navy Department MSS.

[417] Ibid., June 8, 1812.

[418] Captains' Letters, Sept. 2, 1812. Navy Department MSS.

[419] Navy Department MSS.

[420] Captains' Letters, J. Rodgers, Sept. 1, 1812. Navy Department

[421] Letter of Sept. 1, 1812. Navy Department MSS.

[422] James, Naval History (edition 1824), vol. v. p. 283.

[423] Captains' Letters, Sept. 14, 1812. Navy Department MSS.

[424] Naval Chronicle (British), vol. xxviii. p. 426.

[425] Nov. 4, 1812.

[426] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxviii. p. 159; James, vol. v. p. 274.

[427] Sir J.B. Warren to Admiralty, Aug 24, 1812. Canadian Archives
MSS. M. 389. 1, p. 147.

[428] Of the three masts of a "ship," the mizzen-mast is the one
nearest the stern.

[429] The middle, where the yard is hung.

[430] Hull's report, Aug. 28, 1812. Captains' Letters, Navy Department

[431] The spritsail was set on a yard which in ships of that day
crossed the bowsprit at its outer end, much as other yards crossed the
three upright lower masts. Under some circumstances ships would forge
slowly ahead under its impulse. It was a survival from days which knew
not jibs.

[432] Dacres' Defence before the Court Martial. Naval Chronicle, vol.
xxviii. p. 422.

[433] "Guerrière" Court Martial. MS. British Records Office.

[434] Memoirs of Gen. Winfield Scott, vol. i p. 31.

[435] Ibid., p. 35.

[436] Hull to the War Department, March 6, 1812. Report of Hull's
Trial, taken by Lieut. Col. Forbes, 42d U.S. Infantry. Hull's Defence,
p. 31.

[437] Armstrong's Notices of the War of 1812, vol. i. p. 237.

[438] The Writings of Madison (ed. 1865), vol. ii. p. 563. See also
his letter to Dearborn, Oct. 7, 1812. Ibid., p. 547.

[439] Hull's Trial, p. 127. Porter was a witness for the defence.

[440] Hull's Trial, Appendix, p. 4.

[441] Life of Brock, p. 192.

[442] Writings of James Madison (Lippincott, 1865), vol. ii. p. 543.

[443] Eustis to Hull, June 24, 1812. From MS. copy in the Records of
the War Department. This letter was acknowledged by Hull, July 9.

[444] Hull's Trial, Appendix, p. 9.

[445] Hull to Eustis, July 22, 1812. Hull's Trial, Appendix, p. 10.

[446] Hull's Trial, Defence, p. 45.

[447] Canadian Archives MSS. C. 676, p. 177.

[448] Ibid., p. 242.

[449] Hull's Trial. Evidence of Lieutenant Gooding, p. 101, and of
Sergeant Forbush, p. 147 (prisoners in Malden).

[450] Life of Brock, p. 250.

[451] Letter of Colonel Cass to U.S. Secretary of War, Sept. 10, 1812.
Hull's Trial, Appendix, p. 27.

[452] Life of Brock, p. 267.

[453] Hull's Trial. Defence, p. 20.

[454] Hull's Trial. Testimony of Captain Eastman, p. 100, and of
Dalliby, Ordnance Officer, p. 84.

[455] Ibid. Hull's Defence, pp. 59-60.

[456] Madison to Dearborn, Oct. 7, 1812. Writings, vol. ii, p. 547.



By August 25, nine days after the capitulation of Detroit, Brock was
again writing from Fort George, by Niagara. About the time of his
departure for Malden, Prevost had received from Foster, late British
minister to Washington, and now in Nova Scotia, letters foreshadowing
the repeal of the Orders in Council. In consequence he had sent his
adjutant-general, Colonel Baynes, to Dearborn to negotiate a
suspension of hostilities. Like all intelligent flags of truce, Baynes
kept his eyes wide open to indications in the enemy's lines. The
militia, he reported, were not uniformed; they were distinguished from
other people of the country only by a cockade. The regulars were
mostly recruits. The war was unpopular, the great majority impatient
to return to their homes; a condition Brock observed also in the
Canadians. They avowed a fixed determination not to pass the frontier.
Recruiting for the regular service went on very slowly, though pay and
bounty were liberal. Dearborn appeared over sixty, strong and healthy,
but did not seem to possess the energy of mind or activity of body
requisite to his post. In short, from the actual state of the American
forces assembled on Lake Champlain, Baynes did not think there was any
intention of invasion. From its total want of discipline and order,
the militia could not be considered formidable when opposed to
well-disciplined British regulars.[457] Of this prognostic the war was
to furnish sufficient saddening proof. The militia contained excellent
material for soldiers, but soldiers they were not.

Dearborn declined to enter into a formal armistice, as beyond his
powers; but he consented to a cessation of hostilities pending a
reference to Washington, agreeing to direct all commanders of posts
within his district to abstain from offensive operations till further
orders. This suspension of arms included the Niagara line, from action
upon which Hull had expected to receive support. In his defence Hull
claimed that this arrangement, in which his army was not included, had
freed a number of troops to proceed against him; but the comparison of
dates shows that every man present at Detroit in the British force had
gone forward before the agreement could be known. The letter engaging
to remain on the defensive only was signed by Dearborn at Greenbush,
near Albany, August 8. The same day Brock was three hundred and fifty
miles to the westward, embarking at Long Point for Malden; and among
his papers occurs the statement that the strong American force on the
Niagara frontier compelled him to take to Detroit only one half of the
militia that volunteered.[458] His military judgment and vigor,
unaided, had enabled him to abandon one line, and that the most
important, concentrate all available men at another point, effect
there a decisive success, and return betimes to his natural centre of
operations. He owed nothing to outside military diplomacy. On the
contrary, he deeply deplored the measure which now tied his hands at a
moment when the Americans, though restrained from fighting, were not
prevented from bringing up re-enforcements to the positions
confronting him.

Dearborn's action was not approved by the Administration, and the
armistice was ended September 4, by notification. Meantime, to
strengthen the British Niagara frontier, all the men and ordnance that
could now be spared from Amherstburg had been brought back by Brock to
Fort Erie, which was on the lake of that name, at the upper end of the
Niagara River. Although still far from secure, owing to the much
greater local material resources of the United States, and the
preoccupation of Great Britain with the Peninsular War, which
prevented her succoring Canada, Brock's general position was immensely
improved since the beginning of hostilities. His successes in the
West, besides rallying the Indians by thousands to his support, had
for the time so assured that frontier as to enable him to concentrate
his efforts on the East; while the existing British naval superiority
on both lakes, Erie and Ontario, covered his flanks, and facilitated
transportation--communications--from Kingston to Niagara, and thence
to Malden, Detroit, Mackinac, and the Great West. To illustrate the
sweep of this influence, it may be mentioned here--for there will be
no occasion to repeat--that an expedition from Mackinac at a later
period captured the isolated United States post at Prairie du Chien,
on the Mississippi, on the western border of what is now the state of
Wisconsin. Already, at the most critical period, the use of the water
had enabled Brock, by simultaneous movements, to send cannon from Fort
George by way of Fort Erie to Fort Malden; while at the same time
replacing those thus despatched by others brought from Toronto and
Kingston. In short, control of the lakes conferred upon him the
recognized advantage of a central position--the Niagara
peninsula--having rapid communication by interior lines with the
flanks, or extremities; to Malden and Detroit in one direction, to
Toronto and Kingston in the other.

It was just here, also, that the first mischance befell him; and it
cannot but be a subject of professional pride to a naval officer to
trace the prompt and sustained action of his professional ancestors,
who reversed conditions, not merely by a single brilliant blow, upon
which popular reminiscence fastens, but by efficient initiative and
sustained sagacious exertion through a long period of time. On
September 3, Captain Isaac Chauncey had been ordered from the New York
navy yard to command on Lakes Erie and Ontario. Upon the latter there
was already serving Lieutenant Melancthon T. Woolsey, in command of a
respectable vessel, the brig "Oneida," of eighteen 24-pounder
carronades. On Erie there was as yet no naval organization nor vessel.
Chauncey consequently, on September 7, ordered thither Lieutenant
Jesse D. Elliott to select a site for equipping vessels, and to
contract for two to be built of three hundred tons each. Elliott, who
arrived at Buffalo on the 14th, was still engaged in this preliminary
work, and was fitting some purchased schooners behind Squaw Island,
three miles below, when, on October 8, there arrived from Malden, and
anchored off Fort Erie, two British armed brigs, the "Detroit"--lately
the American "Adams," surrendered with Hull--and the "Caledonia,"
which co-operated so decisively in the fall of Mackinac. The same day
he learned the near approach of a body of ninety seamen, despatched by
Chauncey from New York on September 22.[459] He sent to hasten them,
and they arrived at noon. The afternoon was spent in preparations,
weapons having to be obtained from the army, which also supplied a
contingent of fifty soldiers.

The seamen needed refreshment, having come on foot five hundred
miles, but Elliott would not trifle with opportunity. At 1 A.M. of
October 9 he shoved off with a hundred men in two boats, and at 3 was
alongside the brigs. From Buffalo to Fort Erie is about two miles; but
this distance was materially increased by the strong downward current
toward the falls, and by the necessity of pulling far up stream in
order to approach the vessels from ahead, which lessened the chance of
premature discovery, and materially shortened the interval between
being seen and getting alongside. The enemy, taken by surprise, were
quickly overpowered, and in ten minutes both prizes were under sail
for the American shore. The "Caledonia" was beached at Black Rock,
where was Elliott's temporary navy yard, just above Squaw Island; but
the wind did not enable the "Detroit," in which he himself was, to
stem the downward drift of the river. After being swept some time, she
had to anchor under the fire of batteries at four hundred yards range,
to which reply was made till the powder on board was expended. Then,
the berth proving too hot, the cable was cut, sail again made, and the
brig run ashore on Squaw Island within range of both British and
American guns. Here Elliott abandoned her, she having already several
large shot through her hull, with rigging and sails cut to pieces, and
she was boarded in turn by a body of the enemy. Under the conditions,
however, neither side could remain to get her off, and she was finally
set on fire by the Americans.[460] Besides the vessel herself, her
cargo of ordnance was lost to the British. American seamen afterward
recovered from the wreck by night four 12-pounders, and a quantity of
shot, which were used with effect.

The conduct of this affair was of a character frequent in the naval
annals of that day. Elliott's quick discernment of the opportunity to
reverse the naval conditions which constituted so much of the British
advantage, and the promptness of his action, are qualities more
noticeable than the mere courage displayed. "A strong inducement," he
wrote, "was that with these two vessels, and those I have purchased, I
should be able to meet the remainder of the British force on the Upper
Lakes." The mishap of the "Detroit" partly disappointed this
expectation, and the British aggregate remained still superior; but
the units lost their perfect freedom of movement, the facility of
transportation was greatly diminished, and the American success held
in it the germ of future development to the superiority which Perry
achieved a year later. None realized the extent of the calamity more
keenly than Brock. "This event is particularly unfortunate," he wrote
to the Governor General, "and may reduce us to incalculable distress.
The enemy is making every exertion to gain a naval superiority on both
lakes; which, if they accomplish, I do not see how we can retain the
country. More vessels are fitting for war on the other side of Squaw
Island, which I should have attempted to destroy but for your
Excellency's repeated instructions to forbear. Now such a force is
collected for their protection as will render every operation against
them very hazardous."[461] To his subordinate, Procter, at Detroit, he
exposed the other side of the calamity.[462] "This will reduce us to
great distress. You will have the goodness to state the expedients you
possess to enable us to replace, as far as possible, the heavy loss we
have sustained in the 'Detroit'.... A quantity of provisions was ready
to be shipped; but as I am sending you the flank companies of the
Newfoundland Regiment by the 'Lady Prevost,' she cannot take the
provisions." Trivial details these may seem; but in war, as in other
matters, trivialities sometimes decide great issues, as the touching
of a button may blow up a reef. The battle of Lake Erie, as before
said, was precipitated by need of food.

Brock did not survive to witness the consequences which he
apprehended, and which, had he lived, he possibly might have done
something to avert. The increasing strength he had observed gathering
about Elliott's collection of purchased vessels corresponded to a
gradual accumulation of American land force along the Niagara line;
the divisions of which above and below the Falls were under two
commanders, between whom co-operation was doubtful. General Van
Rensselaer of the New York militia, who had the lower division,
determined upon an effort to seize the heights of Queenston, at the
head of navigation from Lake Ontario. The attempt was made on October
13, before daybreak. Brock, whose headquarters were at Fort George,
was quickly on the ground; so quickly, that he narrowly escaped
capture by the advance guard of Americans as they reached the summit.
Collecting a few men, he endeavored to regain the position before the
enemy could establish himself in force, and in the charge was
instantly killed at the head of his troops.

In historical value, the death of Brock was the one notable incident
of the day, which otherwise was unproductive of results beyond an
additional mortification to the United States. The Americans gradually
accumulated on the height to the number of some six hundred, and, had
they been properly re-enforced, could probably have held their ground,
affording an opening for further advance. It was found impossible to
induce the raw, unseasoned men on the other side to cross to their
support, and after many fruitless appeals the American general was
compelled to witness the shameful sight of a gallant division driven
down the cliffs to the river, and there obliged to surrender, because
their comrades refused to go betimes to their relief.

Van Rensselaer retired from service, and was succeeded by General
Smyth, who now held command of the whole line, thirty miles, from
Buffalo to Fort Niagara, opposite Fort George, where the river enters
Lake Ontario. A crossing in force, in the upper part of the river,
opposite Black Rock, was planned by him for November 28. In
preparation for it an attack was to be made shortly before daylight by
two advance parties, proceeding separately. One was to carry the
batteries and spike the guns near the point selected for landing; the
other, to destroy abridge five miles below, by which re-enforcements
might arrive to the enemy.

To the first of these was attached a party of seventy seamen, who
carried out their instructions, spiking and dismounting the guns. The
fighting was unusually severe, eight out of the twelve naval officers
concerned being wounded, two mortally, and half of the seamen either
killed or wounded. Although the bridge was not destroyed, favorable
conditions for the crossing of the main body had been established;
but, upon viewing the numbers at his disposal, Smyth called a council
of war, and after advising with it decided not to proceed. This was
certainly a case of useless bloodshed. General Porter of the New York
militia, who served with distinguished gallantry on the Niagara
frontier to the end of the war, was present in this business, and
criticised Smyth's conduct so severely as to cause a duel between
them. "If bravery be a virtue," wrote Porter, "if the gratitude of a
country be due to those who gallantly and desperately assert its
rights, the government will make ample and honorable provision for the
heirs of the brave tars who fell on this occasion, as well as for
those that survive."[463] Another abortive movement toward crossing
was made a few days later, and with it land operations on the Niagara
frontier ended for the year 1812. Smyth was soon afterward dropped
from the rolls of the army.

In the eastern part of Dearborn's military division, where he
commanded in person, toward Albany and Champlain, less was attempted
than at Detroit or Niagara. To accomplish less would be impossible;
but as nothing was seriously undertaken, nothing also disastrously
failed. The Commander-in-Chief gave sufficient disproof of military
capacity by gravely proposing to "operate with effect at the same
moment against Niagara, Kingston, and Montreal."[464] Such divergence
of effort and dissemination of means, scanty at the best, upon points
one hundred and fifty to two hundred miles apart, contravened all
sound principle; to remedy which no compensating vigor was
discoverable in his conduct. In all these quarters, as at Detroit, the
enemy were perceptibly stronger in the autumn than when the war began;
and the feebleness of American action had destroyed the principal
basis upon which expectation of success had rested--the disaffection
of the inhabitants of Canada and their readiness to side with the
invaders. That this disposition existed to a formidable extent was
well known. It constituted a large element in the anxieties of the
British generals, especially of Brock; for in his district there were
more American settlers than in Lower Canada.[465] On the Niagara
peninsula, especially, climatic conditions, favorable to farming, had
induced a large immigration. But local disloyalty is a poor reed for
an assailant to rest upon, and to sustain it in vigorous action
commonly requires the presence of a force which will render its
assistance needless. Whatever inclination to rebel there might have
been was effectually quelled by the energy of Brock, the weakness of
Hull, and the impotence of Dearborn and his subordinates.

In the general situation the one change favorable to the United
States was in a quarter the importance of which the Administration had
been slow to recognize, and probably scarcely appreciated even now.
The anticipated military laurels had vanished like a dream, and the
disinclination of the American people to military life in general, and
to this war in particular, had shown itself in enlistments for the
army, which, the President wrote, "fall short of the most moderate
calculation." The attempt to supplement "regulars" by "volunteers,"
who, unlike the militia, should be under the General Government
instead of that of the States--a favorite resource always with the
Legislature of the United States--was "extremely unproductive;" while
the militia in service were not under obligation to leave their state,
and might, if they chose, abandon their fellow-countrymen outside its
limits to slaughter and capture, as they did at Niagara, without
incurring military punishment. The governors of the New England
States, being opposed to the war, refused to go a step beyond
protecting their own territory from hostilities, which they declared
were forced upon them by the Administration rather than by the
British. For this attitude there was a semblance of excuse in the
utter military inefficiency to which the policy of Jefferson and
Madison had reduced the national government. It was powerless to give
the several states the protection to which it was pledged by the
Constitution. The citizens of New York had to fortify and defend their
own harbor. The reproaches of New England on this score were seconded
somewhat later by the outcries of Maryland; and if Virginia was silent
under suffering, it was not because she lacked cause for complaint. It
is to be remembered that in the matter of military and naval
unpreparedness the great culprits were Virginians. South of Virginia
the nature of the shore line minimized the local harrying, from which
the northern part of the community suffered. Nevertheless, there also
the coasting trade was nearly destroyed, and even the internal
navigation seriously harassed.

Only on the Great Lakes had the case of the United States improved,
when winter put an end to most operations on the northern frontier. As
in the Civil War a half century later, so in 1812, the power of the
water over the issues of the land not only was not comprehended by the
average official, but was incomprehensible to him. Armstrong in
January, and Hull in March, had insisted upon a condition that should
have been obvious; but not till September 3, when Hull's disaster had
driven home Hull's reasoning, did Captain Chauncey receive orders "to
assume command of the naval force on lakes Erie and Ontario, and to use
every exertion to obtain control of them this fall." All preparations
had still to be made, and were thrown, most wisely, on the man who was
to do the work. He was "to use all the means which he might judge
essential to accomplish the wishes of the government."[466] It is only
just to give these quotations, which indicate how entirely everything
to be done was left to the energy and discretion of the officer in
charge, who had to plan and build up, almost from the foundation, the
naval force on both lakes. Champlain, apparently by an oversight, was
not included in his charge. Near the end of the war he was directed to
convene a court-martial on some occurrences there, and then replied
that it had never been placed under his command.[467]

Chauncey, who was just turned forty, entered on his duties with a
will. Having been for four years in charge of the navy yard at New
York, he was intimately acquainted with the resources of the principal
depot from which he must draw his supplies. On September 26, after
three weeks of busy collecting and shipping, he started for his
station by the very occasional steamboat of those days, which required
from eighteen to twenty hours for the trip to Albany. On the eve of
departure, he wrote the Government that he had despatched "one hundred
and forty ship-carpenters, seven hundred seamen and marines, more than
one hundred pieces of cannon, the greater part of large caliber, with
muskets, shot, carriages, etc. The carriages have nearly all been
made, and the shot cast, in that time. Nay, I may say that nearly
every article that has been sent forward has been made."[468] The
words convey forcibly the lack of preparation which characterized the
general state of the country; and they suggest also the difference in
energy and efficiency between a man of forty, in continuous practice
of his profession, and generals of sixty, whose knowledge of their
business derived over a disuse of more than thirty years, and from
experience limited to positions necessarily very subordinate. From the
meagreness of steamer traffic, all this provision of men and material
had to go by sail vessel to Albany; and Chauncey wrote that his
personal delay in New York was no injury, but a benefit, for as it was
he should arrive well before the needed equipment.

On October 6 he reached Sackett's Harbor, "in company with his
Excellency the Governor of New York, through the worst roads I ever
saw, especially near this place, in consequence of which I have
ordered the stores intended for this place to Oswego, from which place
they will come by water." Elliott had reported from Buffalo that "the
roads are good, except for thirteen miles, which is intolerably bad;
so bad that ordnance cannot be brought in wagons; it must come when
snow is on the ground, and then in sleds." All expectation of
contesting Lake Erie was therefore abandoned for that year, and
effort concentrated on Ontario. There the misfortune of the American
position was that the only harbor on their side of the lake,
Sackett's, close to the entrance of the St. Lawrence, was remote from
the highways of United States internal traffic. The roads described by
Chauncey cut it off from communications by land, except in winter and
the height of summer; while the historic water route by the Mohawk
River, Lake Oneida, and the outlet of the latter through the Oswego
River, debouched upon Ontario at a point utterly insecure against
weather or hostilities. It was necessary, therefore, to accept
Sackett's Harbor as the only possible navy yard and station, under the
disadvantage that the maintenance of it--and through it, of the naval
command of Ontario--depended upon this water transport of forty miles
of open lake from the Oswego River. The danger, when superiority of
force lapsed, as at times it did, was lessened by the existence of
several creeks or small rivers, within which coasting craft could take
refuge and find protection from attack under the muskets of the
soldiery. Sackett's Harbor itself, though of small area, was a safe
port, and under proper precautions defensible; but in neither point of
view was it comparable with Kingston.

While in New York, Chauncey's preparations had not been limited to
what could be done there. By communication with Elliott and Woolsey,
he had informed himself well as to conditions, and had initiated the
purchase and equipment of lake craft, chiefly schooners of from forty
to eighty tons, which were fitted to carry one or two heavy guns; the
weight of battery being determined partly by their capacity to bear
it, and partly by the guns on hand. Elliott's report concerning Lake
Erie led to his being diverted, at his own suggestion, to the mouth of
the Genesee and to Oswego, to equip four schooners lying there; for
arming which cannon before destined to Buffalo were likewise turned
aside to those points. When Chauncey reached Sackett's, he found there
also five schooners belonging mainly to the St. Lawrence trade, which
had been bought under his directions by Woolsey. There was thus
already a very fair beginning of a naval force; the only remaining
apprehension being that, "from the badness of the roads and the
lowness of the water in the Mohawk, the guns and stores will not
arrive in time for us to do anything decisive against the enemy this
fall."[469] Should they arrive soon enough, he hoped to seek the
British in their own waters by November. Besides these extemporized
expedients, two ships of twenty-four guns were under construction at
Sackett's, and two brigs of twenty, with three gunboats, were ordered
on Lake Erie--all to be ready for service in the spring, their
batteries to be sent on when the snow made it feasible.

After some disappointing detention, the waters of the inlet and outlet
of Lake Oneida rose sufficiently to enable guns to reach Oswego,
whence they were safely conveyed to Sackett's. On November 2 the
report of a hostile cruiser in the neighborhood, and fears of her
interfering with parts of the armaments still in transit, led Chauncey
to go out with the "Oneida," the only vessel yet ready, to cut off the
return of the stranger to Kingston. On this occasion he saw three of
the enemy's squadron, which, though superior in force, took no notice
of him. This slackness to improve an evident opportunity may
reasonably be ascribed to the fact that as yet the British vessels on
the lakes were not in charge of officers of the Royal Navy, but of a
force purely provincial and irregular. Returning to Sackett's,
Chauncey again sailed, on the evening of November 6, with the "Oneida"
and six armed schooners. On the 8th he fell in with a single British
vessel, the "Royal George," of twenty-one guns, which retreated that
night into Kingston. The Americans followed some distance into the
harbor on the 9th, and engaged both the ship and the works; but the
breeze blowing straight in, and becoming heavy, made it imprudent
longer to expose the squadron to the loss of spars, under the fire of
shore guns, when retreat had to be effected against the wind. Beating
out, a British armed schooner was sighted coming in from the westward;
but after some exchange of shots, she also, though closely pressed,
escaped by her better local knowledge, and gained the protection of
the port. The squadron returned to Sackett's, taking with it two lake
vessels as prizes, and having destroyed a third--all three possible
resources for the enemy.[470]

Nothing decisive resulted from this outing, but it fairly opened the
campaign for the control of the lakes, and served to temper officers
and men for the kind of task before them. It gave also some experience
as to the strength of the works at Kingston, which exceeded Chauncey's
anticipations, and seems afterward to have exerted influence upon his
views of the situation; but at present he announced his intention, if
supported by a military force, to attack the enemy's vessels at their
anchorage. Although several shot had been seen to strike, Chauncey
himself entertained no doubt that all their damages could readily be
repaired, and that they would put out again, if only to join their
force to that already in Toronto. Still, on November 13, he reported
his certainty that he controlled the water, an assurance renewed on
the 17th; adding that he had taken on board military stores, with
which he would sail on the first fair wind for Niagara River, and that
he was prepared to effect transportation to any part of the lake,
regardless of the enemy, but not of the weather. The last reservation
was timely, for, sailing two days later, the vessels were driven back,
one schooner being dismasted. As navigation on Erie opened usually
much later than that upon Ontario, there was reasonable certainty that
stores could reach the upper lake before they were needed in the
spring, and the attempt was postponed till then. Meantime, however,
four of the schooners were kept cruising off Kingston, to prevent
intercourse between it and the other ports.[471]

On December 1 Chauncey wrote that it was no longer safe to navigate
the lake, and that he would soon lay up the vessels. He ascertained
subsequently that the recent action of the squadron had compelled
troops for Toronto to march by land, from Kingston, and had prevented
the transport of needed supplies to Fort George, thus justifying his
conviction of control established over the water communications. A few
days before he had had the satisfaction of announcing the launch, on
November 26, of the "Madison," a new ship of the corvette type, of 590
tons, one third larger than the ocean cruisers "Wasp" and "Hornet," of
the same class, and with proportionately heavy armament; she carrying
twenty-four 32-pounder carronades, and they sixteen to eighteen of the
like weight. "She was built," added Chauncey, "in the short time of
forty-five days; and nine weeks ago the timber that she is composed of
was growing in the forest."[472] It seems scarcely necessary to point
the moral, which he naturally did not draw for the edification of his
superiors in the Administration, that a like energy displayed on Lake
Erie, when war was contemplated, would have placed Hull's enterprise
on the same level of security that was obtained for his successor by
Perry's victory a year later, and at much less cost.

With the laying up of the fleet on the lakes operations on the
northern frontier closed, except in the far West, where General
Harrison succeeded to the command after Hull's capitulation. The loss
of Detroit had thrown the American front of operations back upon the
Maumee; nor would that, perhaps, have been tenable, had conditions in
Upper Canada permitted Brock to remain with the most of his force
through August and September. As it was, just apprehension for the
Niagara line compelled his return thither; and the same considerations
that decided the place of the Commander-in-Chief, dictated also that
of the mass of his troops. The command at Detroit and Malden was left
to Colonel Procter, whose position was defensively secured by naval
means; the ship "Queen Charlotte" and brig "Hunter" maintaining local
control of the water. He was, however, forbidden to attempt operations
distinctively offensive. "It must be explicitly understood," wrote
Brock to him, "that you are not to resort to offensive warfare for the
purposes of conquest. Your operations are to be confined to measures
of defence and security."[473] Among these, however, Brock included,
by direct mention, undertakings intended to destroy betimes
threatening gatherings of men or of stores; but such action was merely
to secure the British positions, on the principle, already noted, that
offence is the best defence. How far these restrictions represent
Brock's own wishes, or reflect simply the known views of Sir George
Prevost, the Governor General, is difficult to say. Brock's last
letter to Procter, written within a week of his death, directed that
the enemy should be kept in a state of constant ferment. It seems
probable, however, that Procter's force was not such as to warrant
movement with a view to permanent occupation beyond Detroit, the more
so as the roads were usually very bad; but any effort on the part of
the Americans to establish posts on the Maumee, or along the lake,
must be promptly checked, if possible, lest these should form bases
whence to march in force upon Detroit or Malden, when winter had
hardened the face of the ground.[474]

The purpose of the Americans being to recover Detroit, and then to
renew Hull's invasion, their immediate aim was to establish their line
as far to the front as it could for the moment be successfully
maintained. The Maumee was such a line, and the one naturally
indicated as the advanced base of supplies upon which any forward
movement by land must rest. The obstacle to its tenure, when summer
was past and autumn rains had begun, was a great swamp, known locally
as the Black Swamp, some forty miles wide, stretching from the
Sandusky River on the east to the Indiana line on the west, and
therefore impeding the direct approach from the south to the Maumee.
Through this Hull had forced his way in June, building a road as he
went; but by the time troops had assembled in the autumn progress here
proved wholly impossible.

On account of the difficulties of transportation, Harrison divided his
force into three columns, the supplies of each of which in a new
country could be more readily sustained than those of the whole body,
if united; in fact, the exigencies of supply in the case of large
armies, even in well-settled countries, enforce "dissemination in
order to live," as Napoleon expressed it. It is of the essence of such
dissemination that the several divisions shall be near enough to
support each other if there be danger of attack; but in the case of
Harrison, although his dispositions have been severely censured on
this score, south of the Maumee no such danger existed to a degree
which could not be safely disregarded. The centre column, therefore,
was to advance over the road opened by Hull; the right by the east of
the Sandusky River to its mouth on Lake Erie, east of the swamp,
whence it could move to the Maumee; while the left, and the one most
exposed, from its nearness to the Indian country, was to proceed by
the Auglaize River, a tributary of the Maumee navigable for boats of
light draught, to Fort Defiance, at the junction of the two streams.
Had this plan been carried out, the army would have held a line from
Fort Defiance to the Rapids of the Maumee, a distance of about forty
miles, on which fortified depots could be established prior to further
operations; and there would have been to it three chains of supply,
corresponding to the roads used by the divisions in their march. Fort
Defiance, with a work at the Rapids, afterward built and called Fort
Meigs, would sustain the line proper; while a subsidiary post,
subsequently known as Fort Stephenson, on the Lower Sandusky, was
essential to the defence of that road as it approached the lake, and
thence westward, where it skirted the lake shore, and was in measure
open to raids from the water. The western line of supplies, being
liable to attack from the neighboring Indians, was further
strengthened by works adequate to repel savages.

Fort Defiance on the left was occupied by October 22, and toward the
middle of December some fifteen hundred men had assembled on the
right, on the Sandusky, Upper and Lower; but the centre column could
not get through, and the attempt to push on supplies by that route
seems to have been persisted in beyond the limits of reasonable
perseverance. Under these conditions, Harrison established his
headquarters at Upper Sandusky about December 20, sending word to
General Winchester, commanding at Defiance, to descend the Maumee to
the Rapids, and there to prepare sleds for a dash against Malden
across the lake, when frozen. This was the substitution, under the
constraint of circumstances, of a sudden blow in place of regulated
advance; for it abandoned, momentarily at least, the plan of
establishing a permanent line. Winchester moved as directed, reaching
the Rapids January 10, 1813, and fixing himself in position with
thirteen hundred men on the north bank, opposite Hull's road. Early in
the month the swamp froze over, and quantities of supplies were
hurried forward. The total disposable force now under Harrison's
command is given as sixty-three hundred.

Preparations and concentration had progressed thus far, when an
impulsive outburst of sympathy evoked a singularly inconsiderate and
rash movement on the part of the division on the Maumee, the commander
of which seems to have been rather under the influence of his troops
than in control of them. Word was brought to the camp that the
American settlement of Frenchtown, beyond the River Raisin, thirty
miles away toward Detroit, and now within British control, was
threatened with burning by Indians. A council of war decided that
relief should be attempted, and six hundred and sixty men started on
the morning of January 17. They dispossessed the enemy and established
themselves in the town, though with severe losses. Learning their
success, Winchester himself went to the place on the 19th, followed
closely by a re-enforcement of two-hundred and fifty. More than half
his command was now thirty miles away from the position assigned it,
without other base of retreat or support than the remnant left at the
Rapids. In this situation a superior force of British and Indians
under Procter crossed the lake on the ice and attacked the party thus
rashly advanced to Frenchtown, which was compelled to surrender by 8
A.M. of January 22.


Winchester had notified Harrison of his proposed action, but not in
such time as to permit it to be countermanded. Receiving the news on
the morning of January 19, Harrison at once recognized the hazardous
nature of the step, and ordered forward troops from Upper and Lower
Sandusky; proceeding himself to the latter place, and thence to the
Rapids, which he reached early on the 20th, ahead of the
re-enforcements. There was nothing to do but await developments until
the men from Sandusky arrived. At noon of the 22d he received
intelligence of the surrender, and saw that, through the imprudence of
his subordinate, his project of crossing the ice to attack the enemy
had been crushed by Procter, who had practically annihilated one of
his principal divisions, beating it in detail.

The loss of so large a part of the force upon which he had counted,
and the spread of sickness among the remainder, arrested Harrison's
projects of offensive action. The Maumee even was abandoned for a few
days, the army falling back to Portage River, toward the Sandusky. It
soon, however, returned to the Rapids, and there Fort Meigs was built,
which in the sequel proved sufficient to hold the position against
Procter's attack. The army of the Northwest from that time remained
purely on the defensive until the following September, when Perry's
victory, assuring the control of the lake, enabled it to march secure
of its communications.

Whatever chance of success may attend such a dash as that against
Malden, planned by Harrison in December, or open to Hull in August,
the undertaking is essentially outside the ordinary rules of warfare,
and to be justified only by the special circumstances of the case,
together with the possibility of securing the results obtained.
Frenchtown, as a particular enterprise, illustrates in some measure
the case of Malden. It was victoriously possessed, but under
conditions which made its tenure more than doubtful, and the loss of
the expeditionary corps more than probable. Furthermore, if held, it
conferred no advantage. The position was less defensible than the
Maumee, more exposed because nearer the enemy, more difficult to
maintain because the communications were thirty miles longer, and,
finally, it controlled nothing. The name of occupation, applied to it,
was a mere misnomer, disguising a sham. Malden, on the contrary, if
effectually held, would confer a great benefit; for in the hands of an
enemy it menaced the communications of Detroit, and if coupled with
command of the water, as was the case, it controlled them, as Hull
found to his ruin. To gain it, therefore, justified a good deal of
risk; yet if seized, unless control of the water were also soon
established, it would, as compared with Detroit, entail upon the
Americans the additional disadvantage that Frenchtown incurred over
the Maumee,--an increase of exposure, because of longer and more
exposed lines of communication. Though Malden was valuable to the
British as a local base, with all the benefits of nearness, it was not
the only one they possessed on the lakes. The loss of it, therefore,
so long as they possessed decided superiority in armed shipping,
though a great inconvenience, would not be a positive disability. With
the small tonnage they had on the lake, however, it would have become
extremely difficult, if not impossible, to transport and maintain a
force sufficient seriously to interrupt the road from the Maumee, upon
which Detroit depended.

In short, in all ordinary warfare, and in most that is extraordinary
and seems outside the rules, one principle is sure to enforce itself
with startling emphasis, if momentarily lost to sight or forgotten,
and that is the need of secured communications. A military body, land
or sea, may abandon its communications for a brief period, strictly
limited, expecting soon to restore them at the same or some other
point, just as a caravan can start across the desert with food and
water which will last until another base is reached. There is no
surrender of certainty in such a case; but a body of troops thrown
into a position where it has no security of receiving supplies, incurs
a risk that needs justification, and can receive it only from special
circumstances. No position within striking distance of the lake shore
was permanently secure unless supported by naval power; because all
that is implied by the term "communications"--facility for
transporting troops, supplies, and ammunition, rapidity of movement
from point to point, central position and interior lines--all depended
upon the control of the water, from Mackinac to the rapids of the St.

This truth, announced before the war by Hull and Armstrong, as well as
by Harrison somewhat later, and sufficiently obvious to any thoughtful
man, was recognized in act by Harrison and the Government after the
Frenchtown disaster. The general was not responsible for the blunder
of his subordinate, nor am I able to see that his general plans for a
land campaign, considered independent of the water, lacked either
insight, judgment, or energy. He unquestionably made very rash
calculations, and indulged in wildly sanguine assurances of success;
but this was probably inevitable in the atmosphere in which he had to
work. The obstacles to be overcome were so enormous, the people and
the Government, militarily, so ignorant and incapable, that it was
scarcely possible to move efficiently without adopting, or seeming to
adopt, the popular spirit and conviction. Facts had now asserted
themselves through the unpleasant medium of experience, and henceforth
it was tacitly accepted that nothing could be done except to stand on
the defensive, until the navy of Lake Erie, as yet unbuilt, could
exert its power. Until that day came, even the defensive positions
taken were rudely shaken by Procter, a far from efficient officer,
but possessed still of the power of the lakes, and following, though
over-feebly, the spirit of Brock's instructions, to attack the enemy's
posts and keep things in a ferment.

With the Frenchtown affair hostilities on the Canada frontier ceased
until the following April; but the winter months were not therefore
passed in inactivity. Chauncey, after laying up his ships at Sackett's
Harbor, and representing to the Government the danger to them and to
the navy yard, now that frost had extended over the waters the
solidity of the ground, enabling the enemy to cross at will, departed
to visit his hitherto neglected command on Lake Erie. He had already
seen cause to be dissatisfied with Elliott's choice of a navy yard,
known usually by the name Black Rock, a quarter of a mile above Squaw
Island. The hostile shores were here so close together that even
musketry could be exchanged; and Elliott, when reporting his decision,
said "the river is so narrow that the soldiers are shooting at each
other across." There was the further difficulty that, to reach the
open lake, the vessels would have to go three miles against a current
that ran four knots an hour, and much of the way within point-blank
range of the enemy. Nevertheless, after examining all situations on
Lake Erie, Elliott had reported that none other would answer the
purpose; "those that have shelters have not sufficient water, and
those with water cannot be defended from the enemy and the violence of
the weather."[475] Here he had collected materials and gathered six
tiny vessels; the largest a brig of ninety tons, the others schooners
of from forty to eighty. These he began to equip and alter about the
middle of October, upon the arrival of the carpenters sent by
Chauncey; but the British kept up such a fire of shot and shell that
the carpenters quitted their work and returned to New York, leaving
the vessels with their decks and sides torn up.[476]

They were still in this condition when Chauncey came, toward the end
of December; and although then hauled into a creek behind Squaw
Island, out of range, there were no workmen to complete them. He
passed on to Presqu'Isle, now Erie, on the Pennsylvania shore, and
found it in every way eligible as a port, except that there were but
four or five feet of water on the bar. Vessels of war within could
reach the lake only by being lightened of their guns and stores, a
condition impracticable in the presence of a hostile squadron; but the
local advantages were much superior to those at Black Rock, and while
it could be hoped that a lucky opportunity might insure the absence of
the enemy's vessels, the enemy's guns on the Niagara shore were
fixtures, unless the American army took possession of them. Between
these various considerations Chauncey decided to shift the naval base
from Black Rock to Erie; and he there assembled the materials for the
two brigs, of three hundred tons each, which formed the backbone of
Perry's squadron nine months later.[477] For supplies Erie depended
upon Philadelphia and Pittsburg, there being from the latter place
water communication by the Alleghany River, and its tributary the
French River, to within fifteen miles, whence the transportation was
by good road. Except timber, which grew upon the spot, the
materials--iron, cordage, provisions, and guns--came mainly by this
route from Pennsylvania; a number of guns, however, being sent from
Washington. By these arrangements the resources of New York, relieved
of Lake Erie, were concentrated upon Lakes Ontario and Champlain.

Chauncey further provided for the defence of Black Rock by its own
resources against sudden attack; the army, except a local force of
three hundred men, having gone into winter quarters ten miles back
from the Niagara. He then returned to Sackett's Harbor January 19,
where he found preparations for protection even less satisfactory than
upon Lake Erie,[478] although the stake was far greater; for it may
safely be said that the fall of either Kingston or Sackett's would
have decided the fate of Lake Ontario and of Upper Canada, at once and
definitively. It had now become evident that, in order to decide
superiority on the water, there was to be between these neighboring
and hostile stations the race of ship-building, which became and
continued the most marked feature of the war on this lake. Chauncey
felt the increasing necessity thus entailed for his presence on the
scene. He was proportionately relieved by receiving at this time an
application from Commander Oliver H. Perry to serve under him on the
lakes, and immediately, on January 21, applied for his orders, stating
that he could "be employed to great advantage, particularly on Lake
Erie, where I shall not be able to go so early as I expected, owing to
the increasing force of the enemy on this lake." This marks the
official beginning of Perry's entrance upon the duty in which he won a
distinction that his less fortunate superior failed to achieve. At
this time, however, Chauncey hoped to attain such superiority by the
opening of spring, and to receive such support from the army, as to
capture Kingston by a joint operation, the plan for which he submitted
to the Department. That accomplished, he would be able to transfer to
Lake Erie the force of men needed to destroy the enemy's fleet
there.[479] This expectation was not fulfilled, and Perry remained in
practically independent command upon the upper lakes.

The season of 1812 may be said, therefore, to have closed with the
American squadron upon Lake Ontario concentrated in Sackett's Harbor,
where also two new and relatively powerful ships were building. Upon
Lake Erie the force was divided between Black Rock, where Elliott's
flotilla lay, and Erie, where the two brigs were laid down, and four
other gunboats building. The concentration of these two bodies could be
effected only by first taking possession of the British side of the
Niagara River. This done, and the Black Rock vessels thus released,
there still remained the bar at Erie to pass. The British force on
Ontario was likewise divided, between Toronto and Kingston, the vessels
afloat being at the latter. Neither place, however, was under such
fetters as Black Rock, and the two divisions might very possibly be
assembled despite the hostile fleet. On the upper lake their navy was at
Amherstburg, where also was building a ship, inferior in force, despite
her rig, to either of the brigs ordered by Chauncey at Erie. The
difficulties of obtaining supplies, mechanics, and seamen, in that then
remote region, imposed great hindrances upon the general British
preparations. There nevertheless remained in their hands, at the opening
of the campaign, the great advantages over the Americans--first, of the
separation of the latter's divisions, enforced by the British holding
the bank of the Niagara; and secondly, of the almost insuperable
difficulty of crossing the Erie bar unarmed, if the enemy's fleet kept
in position near it. That the British failed to sustain these original
advantages condemns their management, and is far more a matter of
military criticism than the relative power of the two squadrons in the
battle of September 10. The principal business of each commander was to
be stronger than the enemy when they met. That the American accomplished
this, despite serious obstacles, first by concentrating his force, and
second by crossing the bar unimpeded, so that when he encountered his
opponent he was in decisively superior force, is as distinctly to his
credit as it would have been distinctly to his discredit had the odds
been reversed by any fault of his. Perry by diligent efficiency overcame
his difficulties, combined his divisions, gained the lake, and, by
commanding it, so cut off his enemy's supplies that he compelled him to
come out, and fight, and be destroyed. To compare the force of the two
may be a matter of curious interest; but for the purpose of making
comparisons of desert between them it is a mere waste of ink, important
only to those who conceive the chief end of war to be fighting, and not

       *       *       *       *       *

The disaster at Frenchtown, with the consequent abandonment of all
project of forward movement by the Army of the Northwest, may be
regarded as the definite termination of the land campaign of 1812.
Before resuming the account of the ocean operations of the same
period, it is expedient here to give a summary of European conditions
at the same time, for these markedly affected the policy of the
British Government towards the United States, even after war had been
formally declared.

The British Orders in Council of 1807, modified in 1809 in scope,
though not in principle, had been for a long while the grievance
chiefly insisted upon by the United States. Against them mainly was
directed, by Jefferson and Madison, the system of commercial
restrictions which it was believed would compel their repeal.
Consequently, when the British Government had abolished the obnoxious
Orders, on June 23, 1812, with reservations probably admissible by
the United States, it was unwilling to believe that war could still
not be avoided; nor that, even if begun in ignorance of the repeal, it
could not be stopped without further concession. Till near the end of
the year 1812 its measures were governed by this expectation,
powerfully re-enforced by momentous considerations of European events,
the effect of which upon the United States requires that they be

In June, 1812, European politics were reaching a crisis, the issue of
which could not then be forecast. War had begun between Napoleon and
Russia; and on June 24 the Emperor, crossing the Niemen, invaded the
dominion of the Czar. Great Britain, already nine years at war with
France, had just succeeded in detaching Russia from her enemy, and
ranging her on her own side. The accession of Sweden to this alliance
conferred complete control of the Baltic, thus releasing a huge
British fleet hitherto maintained there, and opening an important
trade, debarred to Great Britain in great measure for four years past.
But on the other hand, Napoleon still, as during all this recent
period, controlled the Continent from the Pyrenees to the Vistula,
carrying its hosts forward against Russia, and closing its ports to
British commerce to the depressing injury of British finance. A young
Canadian, then in England, in close contact with London business life,
wrote to his home at this period: "There is a general stagnation of
commerce, all entrance to Europe being completely shut up. There was
never a time known to compare with the present, nearly all foreign
traders becoming bankrupt, or reduced to one tenth of their former
trade. Merchants, who once kept ten or fifteen clerks, have now but
two or three; thousands of half-starved discharged clerks are skulking
about the streets. Customhouse duties are reduced upwards of one half.
Of such dread power are Bonaparte's decrees, which have of late been
enforced in the strictest manner all over the Continent, that it has
almost ruined the commerce of England."[480]

A month before the United States declared war the perplexities of the
British Government were depicted by the same writer, in terms which
palpably and graphically reflect the contemporary talk of the
counting-house and the dinner-table: "If the Orders in Council are
repealed, the trade of the United States will flourish beyond all
former periods. They will then have the whole commerce of the
Continent in their hands, and the British, though blockading with
powerful armaments the hostile ports of Europe, will behold fleets of
American merchantmen enter in safety the harbors of the enemy, and
carry on a brisk and lucrative trade, whilst Englishmen, who command
the ocean and are sole masters of the deep, must quietly suffer two
thirds of their shipping to be dismantled and lie useless in little
rivers or before empty warehouses. Their seamen, to earn a little salt
junk and flinty biscuits, must spread themselves like vagabonds over
the face of the earth, and enter the service of any nation. If, on the
contrary, the Government continue to enforce the Orders, trade will
still remain in its present deplorable state; an American war will
follow, and poor Canada will bear the brunt." Cannot one see the fine
old fellows of the period shaking their heads over their wine, and
hear the words which the lively young provincial takes down almost
from their lips? They portray truly, however, the anxious dilemma in
which the Government was living, and explain concisely the conflicting
considerations which brought on the war with the United States. From
this embarrassing situation the current year brought a double relief.
The chance of American competition was removed by the declaration of
war, and exclusion from the Continent by Napoleon's reverses.

While matters were thus in northern and central Europe, in the far
southwest the Spanish peninsula had for the same four dreary years
been the scene of desolating strife, in which from the beginning Great
Britain had taken a most active part, supporting the insurgent people
with armies and money against the French legions. The weakening effect
of this conflict upon the Emperor, and the tremendous additional
strain upon his resources now occasioned by the break with Russia,
were well understood, and hopes rose high; but heavy in the other
scale were his unbroken record of success, and the fact that the War
in the Peninsula, the sustenance of which was now doubly imperative in
order to maintain the fatal dissemination of his forces between the
two extremities of Europe, depended upon intercourse with the United
States. The corn of America fed the British and their allies in the
Peninsula, and so abundantly, that flour was cheaper in Lisbon than in
Liverpool. In 1811, 802 American vessels entered the Tagus to 860
British; and from all the rest of the outside world there came only
75. The Peninsula itself, Spain and Portugal together, sent but
452.[481] The merchants of Baltimore, petitioning against the
Non-Intercourse Act, said that $100,000,000 were owing by British
merchants to Americans, which could only be repaid by importations
from England; and that this debt was chiefly for shipments to Spain
and Portugal.[482] The yearly export thither, mainly for the armies,
was 700,000 barrels of flour, besides grain in other forms.[483] The
maintenance of this supply would be endangered by war.

Upon the continuance of peace depended also the enjoyment of the
relatively tranquil conditions which Great Britain, after years of
vexation, had succeeded at last in establishing in the western basin
of the Atlantic, and especially in the Caribbean Sea. In 1808 the
revolt of the Spanish people turned the Spanish West Indies once more
to her side; and in 1809 and 1810 the conquest of the last of the
French islands gave her control of the whole region, depriving French
privateers of every base for local operations against British
commerce. In 1812, by returns to September 1, the Royal Navy had at
sea one hundred and twenty ships of the line and one hundred and
forty-five frigates, besides four hundred and twenty-one other
cruisers, sixteen of which were larger and the rest smaller than the
frigate class--a total of six hundred and eighty-six.[484] Of these
there were on the North American and West India stations only three of
the line, fifteen frigates, and sixty-one smaller--a total of
seventy-nine.[485] The huge remainder of over six hundred ships of war
were detained elsewhere by the exigencies of the contest, the naval
range of which stretched from the Levant to the shores of Denmark and
Norway, then one kingdom under Napoleon's control; and in the far
Eastern seas extended to the Straits of Sunda, and beyond. From
Antwerp to Venice, in various ports, when the Empire fell, Napoleon
had over a hundred ships of the line and half a hundred frigates. To
hold these in check was in itself a heavy task for the British sea
power, even though most of the colonial ports which might serve as
bases for their external action had been wrested from France. A
hostile America would open to the French navy a number of harbors
which it now needed; and at the will of the Emperor the United States
might receive a division of ships of a class she lacked entirely, but
could both officer and man. One of Napoleon's great wants was seamen,
and it was perfectly understood by intelligent naval officers, and by
appreciative statesmen like John Adams and Gouverneur Morris, that a
fleet of ships of the line, based upon American resources, would
constitute for Great Britain a more difficult problem than a vastly
larger number in Europe. The probability was contemplated by both the
British Commander-in-Chief and the Admiralty, and was doubtless a
chief reason for the comparatively large number of ships of the
line--eleven--assigned on the outbreak of hostilities to a station
where otherwise there was no similar force to encounter.[486] To bring
the French ships and this coast-line together was a combination
correct in conception, and not impracticable. It was spoken of at the
time--rumored as a design; and had not the attention and the means of
the Emperor been otherwise preoccupied, probably would have been
attempted, and not impossibly effected.

To avert such a conjuncture by the restoration of peace was
necessarily an object of British policy. More than that, however, was
at stake. The Orders in Council had served their turn. In conjunction
with Napoleon's Continental System, by the misery inflicted upon all
the countries under his control, they had brought about the
desperation of Russia and the resistance of the Czar, who at first had
engaged in the Emperor's policy. Russia and France were at war, and it
was imperative at once to redouble the pressure in the Peninsula, and
to recuperate the financial strength of Great Britain, by opening
every possible avenue of supply and of market to British trade, in
order to bring the whole national power, economical and military, to
bear effectively upon what promised to be a death struggle. The repeal
of the Orders, with the consequent admission of American merchant
ships to every hostile port, except such, few as might be effectively
blockaded in accordance with the accepted principles of International
Law, was the price offered for the preservation of peace, and for
readmission to the American market, closed to British manufacturers
and merchants by the Non-Importation Acts. This extension of British
commerce, now loudly demanded by the British people, was an object to
be accomplished by the same means that should prevent the American
people from constituting themselves virtually the allies of Napoleon
by going to war. Should this dreaded alternative, however, come to
pass, not only would British trade again miss the market, the loss of
which had already caused widespread suffering, but, in common with it,
British navigation, British shipping, the chief handmaid of commerce,
would be exposed in a remote quarter, most difficult to guard, to the
privateering activity of a people whose aptitude for such occupation
had been demonstrated in the fight for independence and the old French
wars. Half a century before, in the years 1756-58, there had been
fitted out in the single port of New York, for war against the French,
forty-eight privateers, carrying six hundred and ninety-five guns and
manned by over five thousand men.[487]

The conditions enumerated constituted the principal important military
possibilities of the sea frontier of the United States, regarded as an
element in the general international situation when the year 1812
opened. Its importance to France was simply that of an additional
weight thrown into the scale against Great Britain. France, being
excluded from the sea, could not be aided or injured by the United
States directly, but only indirectly, through their common enemy; and
the same was substantially true of the Continent at large. But to
Great Britain a hostile seaboard in America meant the possibility of
all that has been stated; and therefore, slowly and unwillingly, but
surely, the apprehension of war with its added burden forced the
Government to a concession which years of intermittent commercial
restrictions by the United States, and of Opposition denunciation at
home, had not been able to extort. The sudden death of Spencer
Perceval, the prime minister identified with the Orders in Council,
possibly facilitated the issue, but it had become inevitable by sheer
pressure of circumstances as they developed. It came to pass, by a
conjuncture most fortunate for Great Britain, and most unfavorable to
the United States, that the moment of war, vainly sought to be avoided
by both parties, coincided with the first rude jar to Napoleon's
empire and its speedy final collapse; leaving the Union, weakened by
internal dissension, exposed single-handed to the full force of the
British power. At the beginning, however, and till toward the end of
1812, it seemed possible that for an indefinite period the efforts of
the Americans would receive the support derived from the inevitable
preoccupation of their enemy with European affairs; nor did many doubt
Napoleon's success against Russia, or that it would be followed by
Great Britain's abandoning the European struggle as hopeless.

For such maritime and political contingencies the British Admiralty
had to prepare, when the near prospect of war with America threatened
to add to the extensive responsibilities entailed by the long strife
with Napoleon. Its measures reflected the double purpose of the
Government: to secure peace, if possible, yet not to surrender
policies considered imperative. On May 9, 1812, identical instructions
were issued to each of the admirals commanding the four transatlantic
stations,--Newfoundland, Halifax, Jamaica, and Barbados,--warning them
of the imminent probability of hostilities, in the event of which, by
aggressive action or formal declaration on the part of the United
States, they were authorized to resort at once to all customary
procedures of war; "to attack, take or sink, burn or destroy, all
ships or vessels belonging to the United States or to the citizens
thereof." At the same time, however, special stress was laid upon the
urgent wish of the Government to avoid occasions which might induce a
collision. "You are to direct the commanders of his Majesty's ships to
exercise, except in the events hereinbefore specified, all possible
forbearance toward the United States, and to contribute, as far as may
depend upon them, to that good understanding which it is his Royal
Highness's[488] most earnest wish to maintain."[489] The spirit of
these orders, together with caution not to be attacked unawares,
accounts for the absence of British ships of war from the neighborhood
of the American coast noted by Rodgers' cruising squadron in the
spring of 1812. Decatur, indeed, was informed by a British naval agent
that the admiral at Bermuda did not permit more than two vessels to
cruise at a time, and these were instructed not to approach the
American coast.[490] The temper of the controlling element in the
Administration, and the disposition of American naval officers since
the "Chesapeake" affair, were but too likely to afford causes of
misunderstanding in case of a meeting.


[457] Baynes to Prevost. Canadian Archives, C. 377, pp. 27-37.

[458] Life of Brock, p. 258. Brock first heard of the suspension
August 23, at Fort Erie, on his return toward Niagara. Life, p. 274.
See also a letter from Brock to the American General Van Rensselaer,
in the Defence of General Dearborn, by H.A.S. Dearborn, p. 8.

[459] Chauncey to the Secretary of the Navy, Sept. 26, 1812. Captains'
Letters, Navy Department MSS.

[460] Elliott's report of this affair will be found in the Captains'
Letters, Navy Department MSS., forwarded by Chauncey Oct. 16, 1812.

[461] Life of Brock, p. 315.

[462] Ibid., p. 316.

[463] Porter's Address to the Public. Niles' Register, vol. iii. p.

[464] See Eustis's Letter to Dearborn, Aug. 15, 1812. Hall's Memoirs
of the Northwestern Campaign, p. 87.

[465] Life of Brock, pp. 106, 130, 181.

[466] Chauncey to Secretary, Sept. 26, 1812. Captains' Letters, Navy
Department MSS.

[467] Chauncey to Secretary, Feb. 24, 1815. Ibid.

[468] The details of Chauncey's actions are appended to his letter of
Sept. 26, 1812.

[469] Chauncey to Secretary of the Nary, Oct. 8, 12, 21, 1812.
Captains' Letters.

[470] Chauncey to Secretary, October 27, November 4, 6, 13. Captains'
Letters. Those for November 6 and 13 can be found in Niles, vol. iii,
pp. 205, 206.

[471] Chauncey to Secretary, November 17. Captains' Letters.

[472] Chauncey to Secretary, Nov. 26, 1812. Ibid.

[473] Life of Brock, p. 293.

[474] In the Canadian Archives frequent mention is made of expeditions
by Procter's forces about the American lines, as of the British
shipping on the Lake front during the autumn of 1812.

[475] Elliott to Chauncey, Sept. 14, 1812. Captains' Letters, Navy

[476] Chauncey to the Secretary, Oct. 22, 1812. Captains' Letters,
Navy Department.

[477] Chauncey to the Secretary, Dec. 25, 1812; Jan. 1 and 8, and Feb.
16, 1813. Captains' Letters.

[478] See Chauncey's letters of Dec. 1, 1812, and Jan. 20, 1813.
Captains' Letters.

[479] Chauncey to the Secretary, Jan. 21, Feb. 22, 1813. Captains'

[480] Ridout, "Ten Years in Upper Canada," pp. 52, 58, 115.

[481] Niles' Register, vol ii. p. 42.

[482] Ibid., p. 119.

[483] Ibid., p. 303.

[484] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxviii. p. 248.

[485] Quoted from Steele's List (British) by Niles' Register, vol. ii.
p. 356.

[486] Croker to Warren, Nov. 18, 1812, and March 20, 1813. British
Admiralty MSS. Out-Letters.

[487] Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 111. Quoted from a publication of

[488] The Prince Regent. George III. was incapacitated at this time.

[489] Admiralty Out-Letters, British Records Office.

[490] Rodgers to the Secretary, April 29, 1812. Decatur, June 16,
1812. Captains' Letters.



In anticipation of war the British Admiralty took the military measure
of consolidating their transatlantic stations, with the exception of
Newfoundland. The Jamaica, Leeward Islands, and Halifax squadrons,
while retaining their present local organizations, were subordinated
to a single chief; for which position was designated Admiral Sir John
Borlase Warren, an officer of good fighting record, but from his
previous career esteemed less a seaman than a gallant man. This was
apparently his first extensive command, although he was now
approaching sixty; but it was foreseen that the British minister might
have left Washington in consequence of a rupture of relations, and
that there might thus devolve upon the naval commander-in-chief
certain diplomatic overtures, which the Government had determined to
make before definitely accepting war as an irreversible issue. Warren,
a man of courtly manners, had some slight diplomatic antecedents,
having represented Great Britain at St. Petersburg on one occasion.
There were also other negotiations anticipated, dependent upon
political conditions within the Union; where bitter oppositions of
opinion, sectional in character, were known to exist concerning the
course of the Administration in resorting to hostilities. Warren was
instructed on these several points.

It was not until July 25, 1812, that a despatch vessel from Halifax
brought word to England of the attack upon the "Belvidera" by Rodgers'
squadron on June 24. By the same mail Admiral Sawyer wrote that he had
sent a flag of truce to New York to ask an explanation, and besides
had directed all his cruisers to assemble at Halifax.[491] The
Government recognized the gravity of the news, but expressed the
opinion that there was no evidence that war had been decided upon, and
that the action of the American commodore had been in conformity with
previous orders not to permit foreign cruisers within the waters of
the United States. Some color was lent to this view by the
circumstance that the "Belvidera" was reported to have been off Sandy
Hook, though not in sight of land.[492] In short, the British Cabinet
officially assumed that facts were as they wished them to continue;
the course best adapted to insure the maintenance of peace, if
perchance not yet broken.

On July 29, however, definite information was received that the United
States Government had declared that war existed between the two
countries. On the 31st the Cabinet took its first measures in
consequence.[493] One order was issued forbidding British merchant
vessels to sail without convoy for any part of North America or the
West Indies; while another laid an embargo on all American merchant
ships in British ports, and directed the capture of any met at sea,
unless sailing under British licenses, as many then did to Continental
ports. No other hostile steps, such as general reprisals or commercial
blockade, were at this time authorized; it was decided to await the
effect in the United States of the repeal of the obnoxious Orders in
Council. This having taken place only on June 23, intelligence of its
reception and results could not well reach England before the middle
of September. When Parliament was prorogued on July 30, the speech
from the throne expressed a willingness still "to hope that the
accustomed relations of peace and amity between the two countries may
yet be restored."

It is a coincidence, accidental, yet noteworthy for its significance,
that the date of the first hostile action against the United States,
July 31, was also that of the official promulgation of treaties of
peace between Great Britain, Russia, and Sweden.[494] Accompanied as
these were with clauses embodying what was virtually a defensive
alliance of the three Powers against Napoleon, they marked that turn
of the tide in European affairs which overthrew one of the most
important factors in the political and military anticipations of the
United States Administration. "Can it be doubted," wrote Madison on
September 6, "that if, under the pressure added by our war to that
previously felt by Great Britain, her Government declines an
accommodation, it will be owing to calculations drawn from our
internal divisions?"[495] Of the approaching change, however, no sign
yet appeared. The reverses of the French were still in the far future.
Not until September 14 did they enter Moscow, and news of this event
was received in the United States only at the end of November. A
contemporary weekly, under date of December 5, remarked: "Peace before
this time has been dictated by Bonaparte, as ought to have been
calculated upon by the dealers (_sic_) at St. Petersburg, before they,
influenced by the British, prevailed upon Alexander to embark in the
War.... All Europe, the British Islands excepted, will soon be at the
feet of Bonaparte."[496] This expectation, generally shared during the
summer of 1812, is an element in the American situation not to be
overlooked. As late as December 4, Henry Clay, addressing the House of
Representatives, of which he then was Speaker, said: "The British
trade shut out from the Baltic--excluded from the Continent of
Europe--possibly expelled the Black Sea--perishing in South America;
its illicit avenue to the United States, through Canada, closed--was
this the period for throwing open our own market by abandoning our
restrictive system? Perhaps at this moment the fate of the north of
Europe is decided, and the French Emperor may be dictating the law
from Moscow."[497] The following night Napoleon finally abandoned his
routed army and started on his return to Paris.

War having been foreseen, the British Government took its first step
without hesitation. On August 6 the Foreign Office issued Warren's
secret instructions, which were substantially the repetition of those
already addressed on July 8 to its representative in Washington. It
being probable that before they could be received he would have
departed in consequence of the rupture, Warren was to submit the
proposition contained in them, that the United States Government, in
view of the revocation of the Orders in Council, so long demanded by
it, should recall the hostile measures taken. In case of acceptance,
he was authorized to stop at once all hostilities within his command,
and to give assurance of similar action by his Government in every
part of the world. If this advance proved fruitless, as it did, no
orders instituting a state of war were needed, for it already existed;
but for that contingency Warren received further instructions as to
the course he was to pursue, in case "a desire should manifest itself
in any considerable portion of the American Union, more especially in
those States bordering upon his Majesty's North American dominions, to
return to their relations of peace and amity with this country." The
admiral was to encourage such dispositions, and should they take shape
in formal act, making overtures to him for a cessation of hostilities
for that part of the country, he was directed to grant it, and to
enter into negotiations for commercial intercourse between the section
thus acting and the British dominions. In short, if the General
Government proved irreconcilable, Great Britain was to profit by any
sentiment of disunion found to exist.[498]

Warren sailed from Portsmouth August 14, arriving in Halifax September
26. On the 30th, he despatched to the United States Government the
proposal for the cessation of hostilities. Monroe, the Secretary of
State, replied on October 27. The President, he said, was at all times
anxious to restore peace, and at the very moment of declaring war had
instructed the _chargé_ in London to make propositions to that effect
to the British Ministry. An indispensable condition, however, was the
abandonment of the practice of impressment from American vessels. The
President recognized the embarrassment under which Great Britain lay,
because of her felt necessity to control the services of her native
seamen, and was willing to undertake that hereafter they should be
wholly excluded from the naval and merchant ships of the United
States. This should be done under regulations to be negotiated between
the two countries, in order to obviate the injury alleged by Great
Britain; but, meanwhile, impressing from under the American flag must
be discontinued during any armistice arranged. "It cannot be presumed,
while the parties are engaged in a negotiation to adjust amicably this
important difference, that the United States would admit the right,
or acquiesce in the practice of the opposite party, or that Great
Britain would be unwilling to restrain her cruisers from a practice
which would have the strongest tendency to defeat the negotiation."
The Orders in Council having been revoked, impressment remained the
only outstanding question upon which the United States was absolute in
its demand. That conceded, upon the terms indicated, all other
differences might be referred to negotiation. Upon this point Warren
had no powers, for his Government was determined not to yield. The
maritime war therefore went on unabated; but it may be mentioned here
that the President's undertaking to exclude British-born seamen from
American ships took effect in an Act of Congress, approved by him
March 3, 1813. He had thenceforth in hand a pledge which he considered
a full guarantee against whatever Great Britain feared to lose by
ceasing to take seamen from under the American flag. It was not so
regarded in England, and no formal agreement on this interesting
subject was ever reached.

The conditions existing upon his arrival, and the occurrences of the
past three months, as then first fully known to Warren, deeply
impressed him with the largeness of his task in protecting the
commerce of Great Britain. He found himself at once in the midst of
its most evident perils, which in the beginning were concentrated
about Halifax, owing to special circumstances. Although long seemingly
imminent, hostilities when they actually came had found the mercantile
community of the United States, for the most part, unbelieving and
unprepared. The cry of "Wolf!" had been raised so often that they did
not credit its coming, even when at the doors. This was especially the
case in New England, where the popular feeling against war increased
the indisposition to think it near. On May 14, Captain Bainbridge,
commanding the Boston navy yard, wrote: "I am sorry to say that the
people here do not believe we are going to war, and are too much
disposed to treat our national councils with contempt, and to consider
their preparations as electioneering."[499] The presidential election
was due in the following November. A Baltimore newspaper of the day,
criticising the universal rush to evade the embargo of April 4,
instituted in order to keep both seamen and property at home in
avoidance of capture, added that in justice it must be said that most
people believed that the embargo, as on former occasions, did not mean

Under the general sense of unpreparedness, it seemed to many
inconceivable that the Administration would venture to expose the
coasts to British reprisals. John Randolph, repeating in the House of
Representatives in secret session a conversation between the Committee
on Foreign Relations and the Secretary of State, said: "He was asked
whether any essential changes would be made in the sixty days (of the
proposed embargo) in the defence of our maritime frontier and
seaports. He replied, pretty considerable preparations would be made.
He said New York was in a pretty respectable state, but not such as to
resist a formidable fleet; but that it was not to be expected that
that kind of war would be carried on." The obvious reply was, "We must
expect what commonly happens in wars." "As to the prepared state of
the country, the President, in case of a declaration, would not feel
bound to take more than his share of the responsibility. The
unprepared state of the country was the only reason why ulterior
measures should be deferred."[501] Randolph's recollections of this
interview were challenged by members of the Committee in other
points, but not in these. The Administration had then been in office
three years, and the causes of war had been accumulating for at least
seven; but so notorious was the unreadiness that a great part of the
community even now saw only bluster.

For these reasons the first rush to privateering, although feverishly
energetic, was of a somewhat extemporized character. In consequence of
the attempt to elude the embargo, by a precipitate and extensive
export movement, a very large part of the merchant ships and seamen
were now abroad. Hence, in the haste to seize upon enemy's shipping,
anything that could be sent to sea at quick notice was utilized.
Vessels thus equipped were rarely best fitted for a distant voyage, in
which dependence must rest upon their own resources, and upon crews
both numerous and capable. They were therefore necessarily directed
upon commercial highways near at hand, which, though not intrinsically
richest, nor followed by the cargoes that would pay best in the United
States, could nevertheless adequately reward enterprise. In the near
vicinity of Halifax the routes from the British West Indies to New
Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the St. Lawrence, met and crossed the
equally important lines of travel from the British Islands to the same
points. This circumstance contributed to the importance of that place
as a naval and commercial centre, and also focussed about it by far
the larger part of the effort and excitement of the first privateering
outburst from the United States. As Rodgers' bold sortie, and
disappearance into the unknown with a strong squadron had forced
concentration upon the principal British vessels, the cruisers
remaining for dispersion in search of privateers were numerically
inadequate to suppress the many and scattered Americans. Before
Warren's arrival the prizes reported in the United States were one
hundred and ninety, and they probably exceeded two hundred. An
analysis of the somewhat imperfect data which accompany these returns
indicates that about three fourths were seized in the Bay of Fundy and
in the off-lying waters from thence round to Newfoundland. Of the
remainder, half, probably, were taken in the West Indies; and the rest
out in the deep sea, beyond the Gulf Stream, upon the first part of
the track followed by the sugar and coffee traders from the West
Indies to England.[502] There had not yet been time to hear of prizes
taken in Europe, to which comparatively few privateers as yet went.

One of the most intelligent and enterprising of the early privateers
was Commodore Joshua Barney, a veteran of the American Navy of the
Revolution. He commissioned a Baltimore schooner, the "Rossie," at the
outbreak of the war; partly, apparently, in order to show a good
example of patriotic energy, but doubtless also through the promptings
of a love of adventure, not extinguished by advancing years. The
double motive kept him an active, useful, and distinguished public
servant throughout the war. His cruise on this occasion, as far as can
be gathered from the reports,[503] conformed in direction to the
quarters in which the enemy's merchant ships might most surely be
expected. Sailing from the Chesapeake July 15, he seems to have stood
at once outside the Gulf Stream for the eastern edge of the Banks of
Newfoundland. In the ensuing two weeks he was twice chased by an
enemy's frigate, and not till July 31 did he take his first prize.
From that day, to and including August 9, he captured ten other
vessels--eleven in all. Unfortunately, the precise locality of each
seizure is not given, but it is inferable from the general tenor of
the accounts that they were made between the eastern edge of the
Great Banks and the immediate neighborhood of Halifax; in the
locality, in fact, to which Hull during those same ten days was
directing the "Constitution," partly in pursuit of prizes, equally in
search of the enemy's ships of war, which were naturally to be sought
at those centres of movement where their national traders accumulated.

On August 30 the "Rossie," having run down the Nova Scotia coast and
passed by George's Bank and Nantucket, went into Newport, Rhode
Island. It is noticeable that before and after those ten days of
success, although she saw no English vessels, except ships of war
cruising on the outer approaches of their commerce, she was
continually meeting and speaking American vessels returning home.
These facts illustrate the considerations governing privateering, and
refute the plausible opinion often advanced, that it was a mere matter
of gambling adventure. Thus Mr. Gallatin, the Secretary of the
Treasury, in a communication to Congress, said: "The occupation of
privateers is precisely of the same species as the lottery, with
respect to hazard and to the chance of rich prizes."[504] Gallatin
approached the subject from the standpoint of the financier and with
the abstract ideas of the political economist. His temporary
successor, the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Jones, had been a merchant
in active business life, and he viewed privateering as a practical
business undertaking. "The analogy between privateering and lotteries
does not appear to me to be so strict as the Secretary seems to
consider it. The adventure of a privateer is of the nature of a
commercial project or speculation, conducted by commercial men upon
principles of mercantile calculation and profit. The vessel and her
equipment is a matter of great expense, which is expected to be
remunerated by the probable chances of profit, after calculating the
outfit, insurance, etc., as in a regular mercantile voyage."[505] Mr.
Jones would doubtless have admitted what Gallatin alleged, that the
business was liable to be overdone, as is the case with all promising
occupations; and that many would engage in it without adequate
understanding or forethought.

The elements of risk which enter into privateering are doubtless very
great, and to some extent baffle calculation. In this it only shares
the lot common to all warlike enterprise, in which, as the ablest
masters of the art repeatedly affirm, something must be allowed for
chance. But it does not follow that a reasonable measure of success
may not fairly be expected, where sagacious appreciation of well-known
facts controls the direction of effort, and preparation is
proportioned to the difficulties to be encountered. Heedlessness of
conditions, or recklessness of dangers, defeat effort everywhere, as
well as in privateering; nor is even the chapter of unforeseen
accident confined to military affairs. In 1812 the courses followed by
the enemy's trade were well understood, as were also the
characteristics of their ships of war, in sailing, distribution, and
management.[506] Regard being had to these conditions, the pecuniary
venture, which privateering essentially is, was sure of fair
returns--barring accidents--if the vessels were thoroughly well found,
with superior speed and nautical qualities, and if directed upon the
centres of ocean travel, such as the approaches to the English
Channel, or, as before noted, to where great highways cross, inducing
an accumulation of vessels from several quarters. So pursued,
privateering can be made pecuniarily successful, as was shown by the
increasing number and value of prizes as the war went on. It has also
a distinct effect as a minor offensive operation, harassing and
weakening the enemy; but its merits are more contestable when regarded
as by itself alone decisive of great issues. Despite the efficiency
and numbers of American privateers, it was not British commerce, but
American, that was destroyed by the war.

From Newport the "Rossie" took a turn through another lucrative field
of privateering enterprise, the Caribbean Sea. Passing by Bermuda,
which brought her in the track of vessels from the West Indies to
Halifax, she entered the Caribbean at its northeastern corner, by the
Anegada Passage, near St. Thomas, thence ran along the south shore of
Porto Rico, coming out by the Mona Passage, between Porto Rico and
Santo Domingo, and so home by the Gulf Stream. In this second voyage
she made but two prizes; and it is noted in her log book that she here
met the privateer schooner "Rapid" from Charleston, fifty-two days
out, without taking anything. The cause of these small results does
not certainly appear; but it may be presumed that with the height of
the hurricane season at hand, most of the West India traders had
already sailed for Europe. Despite all drawbacks, when the "Rossie"
returned to Baltimore toward the end of October, she had captured or
destroyed property roughly reckoned at a million and a half, which is
probably an exaggerated estimate. Two hundred and seventeen prisoners
had been taken.

While the "Rossie" was on her way to the West Indies, there sailed
from Salem a large privateer called the "America," the equipment and
operations of which illustrated precisely the business conception
which attached to these enterprises in the minds of competent business
men. This ship-rigged vessel of four hundred and seventy-three tons,
built of course for a merchantman, was about eight years old when the
war broke out, and had just returned from a voyage. Seeing that
ordinary commerce was likely to be a very precarious undertaking, her
owners spent the months of July and August in preparing her
deliberately for her new occupation. Her upper deck was removed, and
sides filled in solid. She was given larger yards and loftier spars
than before; the greatly increased number of men carried by a
privateer, for fighting and for manning prizes, enabling canvas to be
handled with greater rapidity and certainty. She received a battery of
very respectable force for those days, so that she could repel the
smaller classes of ships of war, which formed a large proportion of
the enemy's cruisers. Thus fitted to fight or run, and having very
superior speed, she was often chased, but never caught. During the two
and a half years of war she made four cruises of four months each;
taking in all forty-one prizes, twenty-seven of which reached port and
realized $1,100,000, after deducting expenses and government charges.
As half of this went to the ship's company, the owners netted $550,000
for sixteen months' active use of the ship. Her invariable cruising
ground was from the English Channel south, to the latitude of the
Canary Islands.[507]

The United States having declared war, the Americans enjoyed the
advantage of the first blow at the enemy's trade. The reduced numbers
of vessels on the British transatlantic stations, and the perplexity
induced by Rodgers' movement, combined to restrict the injury to
American shipping. A number of prizes were made, doubtless; but as
nearly as can be ascertained not over seventy American merchant ships
were taken in the first three months of the war. Of these,
thirty-eight are reported as brought under the jurisdiction of the
Vice-Admiralty Court at Halifax, and twenty-four as captured on the
Jamaica station. News of the war not being received by the British
squadrons in Europe until early in August, only one capture there
appears before October 1, except from the Mediterranean. There Captain
Usher on September 6 wrote from Gibraltar that all the Americans on
their way down the Sea--that is, out of the Straits--had been
taken.[508] In like manner, though with somewhat better fortune,
thirty or forty American ships from the Baltic were driven to take
refuge in the neutral Swedish port of Gottenburg, and remained
war-bound.[509] That the British cruisers were not inactive in
protecting the threatened shores and waters of Nova Scotia and the St.
Lawrence is proved by the seizure of twenty-four American privateers,
between July 1 and August 25;[510] a result to which the inadequate
equipment of these vessels probably contributed. But American
shipping, upon the whole, at first escaped pretty well in the matter
of actual capture.

It was not in this way, but by the almost total suppression of
commerce, both coasting and foreign, both neutral and American, that
the maritime pressure of war was brought home to the United States.
This also did not happen until a comparatively late period. No
commercial blockade was instituted by the enemy before February, 1813.
Up to that time neutrals, not carrying contraband, had free admission
to all American ports; and the British for their own purposes
encouraged a licensed trade, wholly illegitimate as far as United
States ships were concerned, but in which American citizens and
American vessels were largely engaged, though frequently under flags
of other nations. A significant indication of the nature of this
traffic is found in the export returns of the year ending September
30, 1813. The total value of home produce exported was $25,008,152,
chiefly flour, grain, and other provisions. Of this, $20,536,328 went
to Spain and Portugal with their colonies; $15,500,000 to the
Peninsula itself.[511] It was not till October, 1813, when the British
armies entered France, that this demand fell. At the same time Halifax
and Canada were being supplied with flour from New England; and the
common saying that the British forces in Canada could not keep the
field but for supplies sent from the United States was strictly true,
and has been attested by British commissaries. An American in Halifax
in November, 1812, wrote home that within a fortnight twenty thousand
barrels of flour had arrived in vessels under Spanish and Swedish
flags, chiefly from Boston. This sort of unfaithfulness to a national
cause is incidental to most wars, but rarely amounts to as grievous a
military evil as in 1812 and 1813, when both the Peninsula and Canada
were substantially at our mercy in this respect. With the fall of
Napoleon, and the opening of Continental resources, such control
departed from American hands. In the succeeding twelvemonth there was
sent to the Peninsula less than $5,000,000 worth.

Warren's impressions of the serious nature of the opening conflict
caused a correspondence between him and the Admiralty somewhat
controversial in tone. Ten days after his arrival he represented the
reduced state of the squadron: "The war assumes a new, as well as more
active and inveterate aspect than heretofore." Alarming reports were
being received as to the number of ships of twenty-two to thirty-two
guns fitting out in American ports, and he mentions as significant
that the commission of a privateer officer, taken in a recaptured
vessel, bore the number 318. At Halifax he was in an atmosphere of
rumors and excitement, fed by frequent communication with eastern
ports, as well as by continual experience of captures about the
neighboring shores; the enemies' crews even landing at times. When he
went to Bermuda two months later, so many privateers were met on the
line of traffic between the West Indies and the St. Lawrence as to
convince him of the number and destructiveness of these vessels, and
"of the impossibility of our trade navigating these seas unless a very
extensive squadron is employed to scour the vicinity." He was crippled
for attempting this by the size of the American frigates, which
forbade his dispersing his cruisers. The capture of the "Guerrière"
had now been followed by that of the "Macedonian;" and in view of the
results, and of Rodgers being again out, he felt compelled to
constitute squadrons of two frigates and a sloop. Under these
conditions, and with so many convoys to furnish, "it is impracticable
to cut off the enemy's resources, or to repress the disorder and
pillage which actually exist to a very alarming degree, both on the
coast of British America and in the West Indies, as will be seen by
the copies of letters enclosed," from colonial and naval officials. He
goes on to speak, in terms not carefully weighed, of swarms of
privateers and letters-of-marque, their numbers now amounting to six
hundred; the crews of which had landed in many points of his Majesty's
dominions, and even taken vessels from their anchors in British

The Admiralty, while evidently seeing exaggeration in this language,
bear witness in their reply to the harassment caused by the American
squadrons and private armed ships. They remind the admiral that there
are two principal ways of protecting the trade: one by furnishing it
with convoys, the other by preventing egress from the enemy's ports,
through adequate force placed before them. To disperse vessels over
the open sea, along the tracks of commerce, though necessary, is but
a subsidiary measure. His true course is to concentrate a strong
division before each chief American port, and they intimate
dissatisfaction that this apparently had not yet been done. As a
matter of fact, up to the spring of 1813, American ships of war had
little difficulty in getting to sea. Rodgers had sailed again with his
own squadron and Decatur's on October 8, the two separating on the
11th, though this was unknown to the British; and Bainbridge followed
with the "Constitution" and "Hornet" on the 26th. Once away, power to
arrest their depredations was almost wholly lost, through ignorance of
their intentions. With regard to commerce, they were on the offensive,
the British on the defensive, with the perplexity attaching to the
latter rôle.

Under the circumstances, the Admiralty betrays some impatience with
Warren's clamor for small vessels to be scattered in defence of the
trade and coasts. They remind him that he has under his flag eleven
sail of the line, thirty-four frigates, thirty-eight sloops, besides
other vessels, making a total of ninety-seven; and yet first Rodgers,
and then Bainbridge, had got away. True, Boston cannot be effectively
blockaded from November to March, but these two squadrons had sailed
in October. Even "in the month of December, though it was not possible
perhaps to have maintained a permanent watch on that port, yet having,
as you state in your letter of November 5, precise information that
Commodore Bainbridge was to sail at a given time, their Lordships
regret that it was not deemed practicable to proceed off that port at
a reasonable and safe distance from the land, and to have taken the
chance at least of intercepting the enemy." "The necessity for sending
heavy convoys arises from the facility and safety with which the
American navy has hitherto found it possible to put to sea. The
uncertainty in which you have left their Lordships, in regard to the
movements of the enemy and the disposition of your own force, has
obliged them to employ six or seven sail of the line and as many
frigates and sloops, independent of your command, in guarding against
the possible attempts of the enemy. Captain Prowse, with two sail of
the line, two frigates, and a sloop, has been sent to St. Helena.
Rear-Admiral Beauclerk, with two of the line, two frigates, and two
sloops, is stationed in the neighborhood of Madeira and the Azores,
lest Commodore Bainbridge should have come into that quarter to take
the place of Commodore Rodgers, who was retiring from it about the
time you state Commodore Bainbridge was expected to sail. Commodore
Owen, who had preceded Admiral Beauclerk in this station, with a ship
of the line and three other vessels, is not yet returned from the
cruise on which the appearance of the enemy near the Azores had
obliged their Lordships to send this force; while the 'Colossus' and
the 'Elephant' [ships of the line], with the 'Rhin' and the 'Armide,'
are but just returned from similar services. Thus it is obvious that,
large as the force under your orders was, and is, it is not all that
has been opposed to the Americans, and that these services became
necessary only because the chief weight of the enemy's force has been
employed at a distance from your station."[513]

The final words here quoted characterize exactly the conditions of the
first eight or ten months of the war, until the spring of 1813. They
also define the purpose of the British Government to close the coast
of the United States in such manner as to minimize the evils of widely
dispersed commerce-destroying, by confining the American vessels as
far as possible within their harbors. The American squadrons and
heavy frigates, which menaced not commerce only but scattered ships of
war as well, were to be rigorously shut up by an overwhelming division
before each port in which they harbored; and the Admiralty intimated
its wish that a ship of the line should always form one of such
division. This course of policy, initiated when the winter of 1812-13
was over, was thenceforth maintained with ever increasing rigor;
especially after the general peace in Europe, in May, 1814, had
released the entire British navy. It had two principal results. The
American frigates were, in the main, successfully excluded from the
ocean. Their three successful battles were all fought before January
1, 1813. Commodore John Rodgers, indeed, by observing his own precept
of clinging to the eastern ports of Newport and Boston, did succeed
after this in making two cruises with the "President;" but entering
New York with her on the last of these, in February, 1814, she was
obliged, in endeavoring to get to sea when transferred to Decatur, to
do so under circumstances so difficult as to cause her to ground, and
by consequent loss of speed to be overtaken and captured by the
blockading squadron. Captain Stewart reported the "Constitution"
nearly ready for sea, at Boston, September 26, 1813. Three months
after, he wrote the weather had not yet enabled him to escape. On
December 30, however, she sailed; but returning on April 4, the
blockaders drove her into Salem, whence she could not reach Boston
until April 17, 1814, and there remained until the 17th of the
following December. Her last successful battle, under his command, was
on February 20, 1815, more than two years after she captured the
"Java." When the war ended the only United States vessels on the ocean
were the "Constitution," three sloops--the "Wasp," "Hornet," and
"Peacock "--and the brig "Tom Bowline." The smaller vessels of the
navy, and the privateers, owing to their much lighter draft, got out
more readily; but neither singly nor collectively did they constitute
a serious menace to convoys, nor to the scattered cruisers of the
enemy. These, therefore, were perfectly free to pursue their
operations without fear of surprise.

On the other hand, because of this concentration along the shores of
the United States, the vessels that did escape went prepared more and
more for long absences and distant operations. On the sea "the weight
of the enemy's force," to use again the words of the Admiralty, "was
employed at a distance from the North American station." Whereas, at
the first, most captures by Americans were made near the United
States, after the spring of 1813 there is an increasing indication of
their being most successfully sought abroad; and during the last nine
months of the war, when peace prevailed throughout the world except
between the United States and Great Britain, when the Chesapeake was
British waters, when Washington was being burned and Baltimore
threatened, when the American invasion of Canada had given place to
the British invasion of New York, when New Orleans and Mobile were
both being attacked,--it was the coasts of Europe, and the narrow seas
over which England had claimed immemorial sovereignty, that witnessed
the most audacious and successful ventures of American cruisers. The
prizes taken in these quarters were to those on the hither side of the
Atlantic as two to one. To this contributed also the commercial
blockade, after its extension over the entire seaboard of the United
States, in April, 1814. The practically absolute exclusion of American
commerce from the ocean is testified by the exports of 1814, which
amounted to not quite $7,000,000;[514] whereas in 1807, the last full
year of unrestricted trade, they had been $108,000,000.[515] Deprived
of all their usual employments, shipping and seamen were driven to
privateering to earn any returns at all.

From these special circumstances, the period from June, 1812, when the
war began, to the end of April, 1813, when the departure of winter
conditions permitted the renewal of local activity on sea and land,
had a character of its own, favoring the United States on the ocean,
which did not recur. Some specific account of particular transactions
during these months will serve to illustrate the general conditions

When Warren reached Halifax, there were still in Boston the
"Constitution" and the ships that had returned with Rodgers on August
31. From these the Navy Department now constituted three squadrons.
The "Hornet," Captain James Lawrence, detached from Rodgers' command,
was attached to the "Constitution," in which Captain William
Bainbridge had succeeded Hull. Bainbridge's squadron was to be
composed of these two vessels and the smaller 32-gun frigate "Essex,"
Captain David Porter, then lying in the Delaware. Rodgers retained his
own ship, the "President," with the frigate "Congress;" while to
Decatur was continued the "United States" and the brig "Argus." These
detachments were to act separately under their several commodores; but
as Decatur's preparations were only a few days behind those of
Rodgers, the latter decided to wait for him, and on October 8 the two
sailed in company, for mutual support until outside the lines of
enemies, in case of meeting with a force superior to either singly.

In announcing his departure, Rodgers wrote the Department that he
expected the British would be distributed in divisions, off the ports
of the coast, and that if reliable information reached him of any such
exposed detachment, it would be his duty to seek it. "I feel a
confidence that, with prudent policy, we shall, barring unforeseen
accidents, not only annoy their commerce, but embarrass and perplex
the commanders of their public ships, equally to the advantage of our
commerce and the disadvantage of theirs." Warren and the Admiralty
alike have borne witness to the accuracy of this judgment. Rodgers was
less happy in another forecast, in which he reflected that of his
countrymen generally. As regards the reported size of British
re-enforcements to America, "I do not feel confidence in them, as I
cannot convince myself that their resources, situated as England is at
present, are equal to the maintenance of such a force on this side of
the Atlantic; and at any rate, if such an one do appear, it will be
only with a view to bullying us into such a peace as may suit their
interests."[516] The Commodore's words reflected often an animosity,
personal as well as national, aroused by the liberal abuse bestowed on
him by British writers.

    THE AUTUMN OF 1812]

On October 11 Decatur's division parted company, the "President" and
"Congress" continuing together and steering to the eastward. On the
15th the two ships captured a British packet, the "Swallow," from
Jamaica to Falmouth, having $150,000 to $200,000 specie on board; and
on the 31st, in longitude 32° west, latitude 33° north, two hundred
and forty miles south of the Azores, a Pacific whaler on her homeward
voyage was taken. These two incidents indicate the general direction
of the course held, which was continued to longitude 22° west,
latitude 17° north, the neighborhood of the Cape Verde group. This
confirms the information of the British Admiralty that Rodgers was
cruising between the Azores and Madeira; and it will be seen that
Bainbridge, as they feared, followed in Rodgers' wake, though with a
different ulterior destination. The ground indeed was well chosen to
intercept homeward trade from the East Indies and South America.
Returning, the two frigates ran west in latitude 17°, with the trade
wind, as far as longitude 50°, whence they steered north, passing one
hundred and twenty miles east of Bermuda. In his report to the Navy
Department Rodgers said that he had sailed almost eleven thousand
miles, making the circuit of nearly the whole western Atlantic. In
this extensive sweep he had seen only five enemy's merchant vessels,
two of which were captured. The last four weeks, practically the
entire month of December, had been spent upon the line between Halifax
and Bermuda, without meeting a single enemy's ship. From this he
concluded that "their trade is at present infinitely more limited than
people imagine."[517] In fact, however, the experience indicated that
the British officials were rigorously enforcing the Convoy Law,
according to the "positive directions," and warnings of penalties,
issued by the Government. A convoy is doubtless a much larger object
than a single ship; but vessels thus concentrated in place and in time
are more apt to pass wholly unseen than the same number sailing
independently, and so scattered over wide expanses of sea.

Shortly before his return Rodgers arrested and sent in an American
vessel, from Baltimore to Lisbon, with flour, sailing under a
protection from the British admiral at Halifax. This was a frequent
incident with United States cruisers, national or private, at this
time; Decatur, for example, the day after leaving Rodgers, reported
meeting an American ship having on board a number of licenses from the
British Government to American citizens, granting them protection in
transporting grain to Spain and Portugal. The license was issued by a
British consular officer, and ran thus:[518]

    "To the commanders of His Majesty's ships of war, or of private
    armed ships belonging to subjects of His Majesty.

    "Whereas, from the consideration of the great importance of
    continuing a regular supply of flour and other dried provisions,
    to the allied armies in Spain and Portugal, it has been deemed
    expedient by His Majesty's Government that, notwithstanding the
    hostilities now existing between Great Britain and the United
    States, every degree of encouragement and protection should be
    given to American vessels laden with flour and other dry
    provisions, and _bonâ fide_ bound to Spain or Portugal, and
    whereas, in furtherance of the views of His Majesty's
    Government, Herbert Sawyer, Esq., Vice Admiral and
    commander-in-chief on the Halifax station, has addressed to me a
    letter under the date of the 5th of August, 1812 (a copy whereof
    is hereunto annexed) wherein I am instructed to furnish a copy
    of his letter certified under my consular seal to every American
    vessel so laden and bound, destined to serve as a perfect
    safeguard and protection of such vessel in the prosecution of
    her voyage: Now, therefore, in obedience to these instructions,
    I have granted to the American ship ----, ----, Master," etc.

To this was appended the following letter of instructions from Admiral

    "Whereas Mr. Andrew Allen, His Majesty's Consul at Boston, has
    recommended to me Mr. Robert Elwell, a merchant of that place,
    and well inclined toward the British Interest, who is desirous
    of sending provisions to Spain and Portugal for the use of the
    allied armies in the Peninsula, and whereas I think it fit and
    necessary that encouragement and protection should be afforded
    him in so doing,

    "These are therefore to require and direct all captains and
    commanders of His Majesty's ships and vessels of war which may
    fall in with any American or other vessel bearing a neutral
    flag, laden with flour, bread, corn, and pease, or any other
    species of dry provisions, bound from America to Spain or
    Portugal, and having this protection on board, to suffer her to
    proceed without unnecessary obstruction or detention in her
    voyage, provided she shall appear to be steering a due course
    for those countries, and it being understood this is only to be
    in force for one voyage and within six months from the date

    "Given under my hand and seal on board His Majesty's Ship
    'Centurion,' at Halifax this fourth day of August, one thousand
    eight hundred and twelve.

                           "(Sig.) H. SAWYER, Vice Admiral."

This practice soon became perfectly known to the American Government,
copies being found not only on board vessels stopped for carrying
them, but in seaports. Nevertheless, it went on, apparently tolerated,
or at least winked at; although, to say the least, the seamen thus
employed in sustaining the enemies' armies were needed by the
state.[519] When the commercial blockade of the Chesapeake was
enforced in February, 1813, and Admiral Warren announced that licenses
would no longer enable vessels to pass, flour in Baltimore fell two
dollars a barrel. The blockade being then limited to the Chesapeake
and Delaware, the immediate effect was to transfer this lucrative
traffic further north, favoring that portion of the country which was
considered, in the common parlance of the British official of that
day, "well inclined towards British interests."

On October 13, two days after Rodgers and Decatur parted at sea, the
United States sloop of war "Wasp," Captain Jacob Jones, left the
Capes of the Delaware on a cruise, steering to the eastward. On the
16th, in a heavy gale of wind, she lost her jib-boom. At half-past
eleven in the night of the 17th, being then in latitude 37° north,
longitude 65° west, between four and five hundred miles east of the
Chesapeake, in the track of vessels bound to Europe from the Gulf of
Mexico, half a dozen large sail were seen passing. These were part of
a convoy which had left the Bay of Honduras September 12, on their way
to England, under guard of the British brig of war "Frolic," Captain
Whinyates. Jones, unable in the dark to distinguish their force, took
a position some miles to windward, whence he could still see and
follow their motions. In the morning each saw the other, and
Whinyates, properly concerned for his charges chiefly, directed them
to proceed under all sail on their easterly course, while he allowed
the "Frolic" to drop astern, at the same time hoisting Spanish colors
to deceive the stranger; a ruse prompted by his having a few days
before passed a Spanish fleet convoyed by a brig resembling his own.

It still blowing strong from the westward, with a heavy sea, Captain
Jones, being to windward, and so having the choice of attacking, first
put his ship under close-reefed topsails, and then stood down for the
"Frolic," which hauled to the wind on the port tack--that is, with the
wind on the left side--to await the enemy. The British brig was under
the disadvantage of having lost her main-yard in the same gale that
cost the American her jib-boom; she was therefore unable to set any
square sail on the rearmost of her two masts. The sail called the boom
mainsail in part remedied this, so far as enabling the brig to keep
side to wind; but, being a low sail, it did not steady her as well as
a square topsail would have done in the heavy sea running, a condition
which makes accurate aim more difficult.

The action did not begin until the "Wasp" was within sixty yards of
the "Frolic." Then the latter opened fire, which the American quickly
returned; the two running side by side and gradually closing. The
British crew fired much the more rapidly, a circumstance which their
captain described as "superior fire;" in this reproducing the illusion
under which Captain Dacres labored during the first part of his fight
with the "Constitution." "The superior fire of our guns gave every
reason to expect a speedy termination in our favor," wrote Whinyates
in his official report. Dacres before his Court Martial asked of two
witnesses, "Did you understand it was not my intention to board whilst
the masts stood, in consequence of our superior fire and their great
number of men?" That superior here meant quicker is established by the
reply of one of these witnesses: "Our fire was a great deal quicker
than the enemy's." Superiority of fire, however, consists not only in
rapidity, but in hitting; and while with very big ships it may be
possible to realize Nelson's maxim, that by getting close missing
becomes impossible, it is not the same with smaller vessels in
turbulent motion. It was thought on board the "Wasp" that the enemy
fired thrice to her twice, but the direction of their shot was seen in
its effects; the American losing within ten minutes her maintopmast
with its yard, the mizzen-topgallant-mast, and spanker gaff. Within
twenty minutes most of the running rigging was also shot away, so as
to leave the ship largely unmanageable; but she had only five killed
and five wounded. In other words, the enemy's shot flew high; and,
while it did the damage mentioned, it inflicted no vital injury. The
"Wasp," on the contrary, as evidently fired low; for the loss of the
boom mainsail was the only serious harm received by the "Frolic's"
motive power during the engagement, and when her masts fell,
immediately after it, they went close to the deck. Her loss in men,
fifteen killed and forty-three wounded, tells the same story of aiming

The "Frolic" having gone into action without a main-yard, the loss of
the boom mainsail left her unmanageable and decided the action. The
"Wasp," though still under control, was but little better off; for she
was unable to handle her head yards, the maintopmast having fallen
across the head braces. There is little reason therefore to credit a
contemporary statement of her wearing twice before boarding. Neither
captain mentions further manoeuvring, and Jones' words, "We gradually
lessened the space till we laid her on board," probably express the
exact sequence. As they thus closed, the "Wasp's" greater remaining
sail and a movement of her helm would effect what followed: the
British vessel's bowsprit coming between the main and the mizzen
rigging of her opponent, who thus grappled her in a position favorable
for raking. A broadside or two, preparatory for boarding, followed,
and ended the battle; for when the Americans leaped on board there was
no resistance. In view of the vigorous previous contest, this shows a
ship's company decisively beaten.[520]

Under the conditions of wind and weather, this engagement may fairly
be described as an artillery duel between two vessels of substantially
equal force. James' contention of inferior numbers in the "Frolic" is
true in the letter; but the greater rapidity of her firing shows it
irrelevant to the issue. The want of the mainyard, which means the
lack of the maintopsail, was a more substantial disadvantage. So long
as the boom mainsail held, however, it was fairly offset by the fall
of the "Wasp's" maintopmast and its consequences. Both vessels carried
sixteen 32-pounder carronades, which gave a broadside of two hundred
and fifty-six pounds. The "Wasp" had, besides, two 12-pounder long
guns. The British naval historian James states that the "Frolic" had
in addition to her main battery only two long sixes; but Captain Jones
gives her six 12-pounders, claiming that she was therefore superior to
the "Wasp" by four 12-pounders. As we are not excusing a defeat, it
may be sufficient to say that the fight was as nearly equal as it is
given to such affairs to be. The action lasted forty-three minutes;
the "Frolic" hauling down her colors shortly after noon. Almost
immediately afterward the British seventy-four "Poietiers" came in
sight, and in the disabled condition of the two combatants overhauled
them easily. Two hours later she took possession of both "Wasp" and
"Frolic," and carried them into Bermuda. The "Wasp" was added to the
British navy under the name of "Loup Cervier" (Lynx).

When Rodgers and Decatur separated, on October 11, the former steered
rather easterly, while the latter diverged to the southward as well as
east, accompanied by the "Argus." These two did not remain long
together. It is perhaps worth noticing by the way, that Rodgers
adhered to his idea of co-operation between ships, keeping his two in
company throughout; whereas Decatur, when in control, illustrated in
practice his preference for separate action. The brig proceeded to
Cape St. Roque, the easternmost point of Brazil, and thence along the
north coast of South America, as far as Surinam. From there she passed
to the eastward of the West India Islands and so toward home;
remaining out as long as her stores justified, cruising in the waters
between Halifax, Bermuda, and the Continent. These courses, as those
of the other divisions, are given as part of the maritime action,
conducive to understanding the general character of effort put forth
by national and other cruisers. Of these four ships that sailed
together, the "Argus" alone encountered any considerable force of the
enemy; falling in with a squadron of six British vessels, two of them
of the line, soon after parting with the "United States." She escaped
by her better sailing. Her entire absence from the country was
ninety-six days.

Decatur with the "United States" kept away to the southeast until
October 25. At daybreak of that day the frigate was in latitude 29°
north, longitude 29° 30' west, steering southwest on the port tack,
with the wind at south-southeast. Soon after daylight there was
sighted a large sail bearing about south-southwest; or, as seamen say,
two points on the weather bow. She was already heading as nearly as
the wind permitted in the direction of the stranger; but the latter,
which proved to be the British frigate "Macedonian," Captain John S.
Carden, having the wind free, changed her course for the "United
States," taking care withal to preserve the windward position,
cherished by the seamen of that day. In this respect conditions
differed from those of the "Constitution" and "Guerrière," for there
the American was to windward. Contrary also to the case of the "Wasp"
and "Frolic," the interest of the approaching contest turns largely on
the manoeuvres of the antagonists; for, the "United States" being
fully fifty per cent stronger than the "Macedonian" in artillery
power, it was only by utilizing the advantage of her windward
position, by judicious choice of the method of attack, that the
British ship could hope for success. She had in her favor also a
decided superiority of speed; and, being just from England after a
period of refit, was in excellent sailing trim.

When first visible to each other from the mastheads, the vessels were
some twelve miles apart. They continued to approach until 8.30, when
the "United States," being then about three miles distant,
wore--turned round--standing on the other tack. Her colors,
previously concealed by her sails, were by this manoeuvre shown to the
British frigate, which was thus also placed in the position of
steering for the quarter of her opponent; the latter heading nearer
the wind, and inclining gradually to cross the "Macedonian's" bows
(1). When this occurred, a conversation was going on between Captain
Carden, his first lieutenant, and the master;[521] the latter being
the officer who usually worked the ship in battle, under directions
from the captain. These officers had been in company with the "United
States" the year before in Chesapeake Bay; and, whether they now
recognized her or not, they knew the weight of battery carried by the
heavy American frigates. The question under discussion by them, before
the "United States" wore, was whether it was best to steer direct upon
the approaching enemy, or to keep farther away for a time, in order to
maintain the windward position. By the first lieutenant's testimony
before the Court, this was in his opinion the decisive moment, victory
or defeat hinging upon the resolution taken. He favored attempting to
cross the enemy's bows, which was possible if the "United States"
should continue to stand as she at the moment was--on the port tack;
but in any event to close with the least delay possible. The master
appears to have preferred to close by going under the enemy's stern,
and hauling up to leeward; but Captain Carden, impressed both with the
advantage of the weather gage and the danger of approaching exposed to
a raking fire, thought better to haul nearer the wind, on the tack he
was already on, the starboard, but without bracing the yards, which
were not sharp. His aim was to pass the "United States" at a distance,
wear--turn round from the wind, toward her--when clear of her
broadside, and so come up from astern without being raked. The
interested reader may compare this method with that pursued by Hull,
who steered down by zigzag courses. The Court Martial censured
Carden's decision, which was clearly wrong, for the power of heavy
guns over lighter, of the American 24's over the British 18's, was
greatest at a distance; therefore, to close rapidly, taking the
chances of being raked--if not avoidable by yawing--was the smaller
risk. Moreover, wearing behind the "United States," and then pursuing,
gave her the opportunity which she used, to fire and keep away again,
prolonging still farther the period of slow approach which Carden
first chose.


The "United States" wearing, while this conversation was in progress,
precipitated Carden's action. He interpreted the manoeuvre as
indicating a wish to get to windward, which the "Macedonian's" then
course, far off the wind, would favor. He therefore hurriedly gave the
order to haul up (2), cutting adrift the topmast studdingsail; a
circumstance which to seamen will explain exactly the relative
situations. That he had rightly interpreted Decatur's purpose seems
probable, for in fifteen or twenty minutes the "United States" again
wore (_a_), resuming her original course, by the wind on the port
tack, the "Macedonian" continuing on the starboard; the two now
running on lines nearly parallel, in opposite directions (_b b_). As
they passed, at the distance of almost a mile, the American frigate
discharged her main-deck battery, her spar-deck carronades not ranging
so far. The British ship did not reply, but shortly afterward wore
(_c_), and, heading now in the same general direction as the "United
States," steered to come up on her port side. She thus reached a
position not directly behind her antagonist, but well to the left,
apparently about half a mile away. So situated, if steering the same
course, each ship could train its batteries on the opponent; but the
increased advantage at a distance was with the heavier guns, and when
the "Macedonian," to get near, headed more toward the "United States,"
most of hers ceased to bear, while those of her enemy continued their
fire. A detailed description of the "United States's" manoeuvres by
her own officers has not been transmitted; but in the searching
investigation made by Carden's Court Martial we have them probably
well preserved. The master of the British ship stated that when the
"Macedonian" wore in chase, the "United States" first kept off before
the wind, and then almost immediately came back to it as before (_c_),
bringing it abeam, and immediately began firing. By thus increasing
her lateral distance from the line of the enemy's approach, she was
able more certainly to train her guns on him. After about fifteen
minutes of this, the "Macedonian" suffering severely, her foresail was
set to close (_e_), upon which the "United States," hauling out the
spanker and letting fly the jib-sheet, came up to the wind and backed
her mizzen-topsail, in order not to move too fast from the
advantageous position she had, yet to keep way enough to command the
ship (_e_).

Under these unhappy conditions the "Macedonian" reached within half
musket-shot, which was scarcely the ideal close action of the day; but
by that time she had lost her mizzen-topmast, mainyard, and
maintopsail, most of her standing rigging was shot away, the lower
masts badly wounded, and almost all her carronade battery, the
principal reliance for close action, was disabled. She had also many
killed and wounded; while the only visible damage on board the "United
States" was the loss of the mizzen-topgallant-mast, a circumstance of
absolutely no moment at the time. In short, although she continued to
fight manfully for a half-hour more, the "Macedonian," when she got
alongside the "United States," was already beaten beyond hope. At the
end of the half-hour her fore and main topmasts fell, upon which the
"United States" filled her mizzen-topsail and shot ahead, crossing the
bows of the "Macedonian,"[522] and thus ending the fight. Surprise was
felt on board the British vessel that a raking broadside was not at
this moment poured in, and it was even believed by some that the
American was now abandoning the contest. She was so, in the sense that
the contest was over; a ship with all her spars standing, "in perfect
condition," to use the expression of the enemy's first lieutenant,
would be little less than brutal to use her power upon one reduced to
lower masts, unless submission was refused. Upon her return an hour
later, the "Macedonian's" mizzenmast had gone overboard, and her
colors were hauled down as the "United States" drew near.

    From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in Independence Hall,

This action was fought by the "United States" with singular wariness,
not to say caution. Her change to the starboard tack, when still some
three miles distant, seems to indicate a desire to get the weather
gage, as the "Macedonian" was then steering free. It was so
interpreted on board the British vessel; but as Carden also at once
hauled up, it became apparent that he would not yield the advantage of
the wind which he had, and which it was in his choice to keep, for the
"United States" was a lumbering sailer. Decatur, unable to obtain the
position for attacking, at once wore again, and thenceforth played the
game of the defensive with a skill which his enemy's mistake seconded.
By the movements of his ship the "Macedonian's" closing was
protracted, and she was kept at the distance and bearing most
favorable to the American guns. But when her foresail was set, the
"United States," by luffing rapidly to the wind--flowing the jib-sheet
and hauling out the spanker to hasten this movement--and at the same
time backing the mizzen-topsail to steady her motions and position,
was constituted a moving platform of guns, disposed in the very best
manner to annihilate an opponent obliged to approach at a pretty broad

This account, summarized from the sworn testimony before the British
court, is not irreconcilable with Decatur's remark, that the enemy
being to windward engaged at his own distance, to the greatness of
which was to be ascribed the unusual length of the action. Imbued with
the traditions of their navy, the actions of the "United States"
puzzled the British extremely. Her first wearing was interpreted as
running away, and her shooting ahead when the "Macedonian's" topmasts
fell, crossing her bows without pouring a murderous broadside into a
beaten ship, coupled with the previous impression of wariness, led
them to think that the American was using the bad luck by which alone
they could have been beaten, in order to get away. Three cheers were
given, as though victorious in repelling an attack. They had expected,
so the testimony ran, to have her in an hour.[523] Judged by this
evidence, the handling of the "United States" was thoroughly skilful.
Though he probably knew himself superior in force, Decatur's object
necessarily should be to take his opponent at the least possible
injury to his own ship. She was "on a cruise"; hence haste was no
object, while serious damage might cripple her further operations. The
result was, by his official statement, that "the damage sustained was
not such as to render return to port necessary; and I should have
continued her cruise, had I not deemed it important that we should see
our prize in."[524]

In general principle, the great French Admiral Tourville correctly
said that the best victories are those which cost least in blood,
timber, and iron; but, in the particular instance before us, Decatur's
conduct may rest its absolute professional justification on the
testimony of the master of the British ship and two of her three
lieutenants. To the question whether closing more rapidly by the
"Macedonian" would have changed the result, the first lieutenant
replied he thought there was a chance of success. The others differed
from him in this, but agreed that their position would have been more
favorable, and the enemy have suffered more.[525] Carden himself had
no hesitation as to the need of getting near, but only as to the
method. To avoid this was therefore not only fitting, but the bounden
duty of the American captain. His business was not merely to make a
brilliant display of courage and efficiency, but to do the utmost
injury to the opponent at the least harm to his ship and men. It was
the more notable to find this trait in Decatur; for not, only had he
shown headlong valor before, but when offered the new American
"Guerrière" a year later, he declined, saying that she was overmatched
by a seventy-four, while no frigate could lie alongside of her. "There
was no reputation to be made in this."[526]

The "United States" and her prize, after repairing damages sufficiently
for a winter arrival upon the American coast, started thither; the
"United States" reaching New London December 4, the "Macedonian," from
weather conditions, putting into Newport. Both soon afterward went to
New York by Long Island Sound. It is somewhat remarkable that no one of
Warren's rapidly increasing fleet should have been sighted by either.
There was as yet no commercial blockade, and this, coupled with the
numbers of American vessels protected by licenses, and the fewness of
the American ships of war, may have indisposed the admiral and his
officers to watch very closely an inhospitable shore, at a season
unpropitious to active operations. Besides, as appears from letters
already quoted, the commander-in-chief's personal predilection was more
for the defensive than the offensive; to protect British trade by
cruisers patrolling its routes, rather than by preventing egress from
the hostile ports.


[491] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxviii. p. 73.

[492] Ibid.

[493] Ibid., pp. 138, 139.

[494] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxviii. p. 139.

[495] Writings of Madison (ed. 1865), vol. ii. p. 545.

[496] Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 220.

[497] Annals of Congress, 1812-13, p. 301.

[498] Castlereagh to the Admiralty, Aug. 6 and 12, 1812. British
Record Office MSS. Warren's Letter to the United States Government and
Monroe's reply are in American State Papers, vol. iii. pp. 595, 596.

[499] Captains' Letters. Navy Department MSS.

[500] Niles' Register, vol. ii. p. 101.

[501] Annals of Congress, 1811-12, p. 1593.

[502] These data are summarized from Niles' Register, which throughout
the war collected, and periodically published, lists of prizes.

[503] A synopsis of the "Rossie's" log is given in Niles' Register,
vol. iii p. 158.

[504] Gallatin, Dec. 8, 1812. American State Papers, Finance, vol. ii.
p. 594.

[505] Jones, July 21, 1813. American State Papers, Finance, vol. ii.
p. 645.

[506] In the memoir of Commodore Barney (p. 252), published by his
daughter, it is said that, successful though the "Rossie's" cruise was
in its issue, he was dissatisfied with the course laid down for him by
his owners, who did not understand the usual tracks of British

[507] Account of the Private Armed Ship "America," by B.B.
Crowninshield. Essex Institute Historical Collections, vol. xxxvii.

[508] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxviii. p. 431.

[509] Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 320.

[510] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxviii. p. 257.

[511] American State Papers, Commerce and Navigation, vol. i. p. 992.

[512] Warren to Croker, Dec. 28 and 29, 1812. Records Office MSS.

[513] Croker to Warren, Jan. 9, Feb. 10, and March 20, 1813. Records
Office MSS.

[514] American State Papers. Commerce and Navigation, vol. i. p. 1021.

[515] American State Papers. Commerce and Navigation, vol. i. p. 718.

[516] Captains' Letters. Navy Department, Oct. 3, 1812.

[517] Captains' Letters, Navy Department, Dee. 31, 1812, and Jan. 2,

[518] From the file of Captains' Letters, Jan. 1, 1813. Found in the
American licensed brig "Julia," captured by United States frigate
"Chesapeake," Captain Samuel Evans. The vessel was condemned in the
United States Courts.

[519] Besides the obvious impropriety, the practice was expressly
forbidden by law. It was reprobated in strong terms by Justice Joseph
Story, of Massachusetts, of the Supreme Court of the United States,
affirming the condemnation of the "Julia." His judgment is given in
full in Niles' Register, vol. iv. pp. 393-397.

[520] Captain Jones' Report of this action can be found in Niles'
Register, vol. iii. p. 217; that of Captain Whinyates in Naval
Chronicle, vol. xxix. p. 76.

[521] Macedonian Court Martial. British Records Office MSS.

[522] James states that this was in order to fill fresh cartridges,
which is likely enough; but it is most improbable that the movement
was deferred till the last cartridge ready was exhausted--that the
battery could not have been fired when crossing the bows.

[523] "Macedonian" Court Martial.

[524] Decatur's Report. Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 253.

[525] "Macedonian" Court Martial.

[526] Captains' Letters, April 9, 1814. Navy Department MSS.

       *       *       *       *       *

    | Typographical errors corrected in text:                   |
    |                                                           |
    | Page  16: handdlers replaced with handlers                |
    | Page 127: diference replaced with difference              |
    |                                                           |

       *       *       *       *       *

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812 - Volume 1" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.