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and the Berlin decree of November following. Were it. admitted that an adequate force existed, and was applicable to such a purpose, the absurdity of confounding the power to do a thing with the actually doing of it speaks for itself. In the present case the absurdity is peculiarly striking. A port blockaded by sea without a ship near it, being a contradiction in terms as well as a perversion of law and of common sense.
From the language of lord Wellesley's two letters, it is possible he may endeavour to evade the measure required, by subtle comments on the posture given to the blockade of May, 1806, by the succeeding orders of 1807. But even here he is met by the case of the blockade of Copenhagen and the other ports of Zealand in the year 1803-at a time when these, with all Danish ports, were embraced by those very orders of 1807-a proof that however the orders and blockades may be regarded as in some respects the same, they are regarded in others as having a distinct operation, and may consequently co-exist, without being absolutely merged in, or superceded, the one by the other.
In the difficulty which the British government must feel in finding a gloss for the extravagant principle of her paper blockades, it may perhaps wish to infer an acquiescence on the part of this government, from the silence under which they have, in some instances, passed. Should a disposition to draw such an inference show itself, you will be able to meet it by an appeal not only to the successful remonstrance in the letter to Mr. Thornton, above cited, but to the answer given to Mr. Merry, of June, 1806, to the notification of a blockade in the year 1806, as a precise and authentick record of the light in which such blockades, and the notification of them, were viewed by the United States. Copies of the answer have been heretofore forwarded, and another is now enclosed, as an additional precaution against miscarriage.
Whatever may be the answer to the representation and requisition which you are instructed to make, you will transmit it without delay to this department. Should it be of a satisfactory nature, you will hasten to forward it also to the diplomatic functionary of the United States at Paris, who will be instructed to make a proper use of it for obtaining a repeal of the French decree of Berlin, and to proceed, concurrently with you, in bringing about successive removals by the two governments of all their predatory edicts. I avail myself of this occasion to state to you, that it is deemed of great importance that our ministers at foreign courts, and especially at Paris and London, should be kept, the one by the other, informed of the state of our affairs at each. I have the honour to be, &c.
R. SMITH. William Pinkney, Esq. &c. &c. &c.
Mr. Madison to Mr. Thornton, Charge des Affairs of his
Britannick Majesty. Department of State, October 27, 1803.
SIR, -The letters of which copies are enclosed, were received last evening. One of them is from the British consul general at New York; the other, a copy enclosed therein, of a letter to him from commodore Hood, commander in chief of his Britannick majesty's ships of war on a West India station. The letter bears date of the 25th of July last, and requests that the American government and agents of neutral nations might be made acquainted, that the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe are, and have been blockaded from the 17th of June, preceding, by detachments from the squadron under his command; in order that there may be no plea for attempting to enter the ports of those islands.
It will, without doubt, occur to you, sir, that such a communication would have been more properly made through another channel, than directly from the consulate at New York. The importance and urgency of the subject however supersede the consideration of forms, and I lose no time in communicating to you the observations which the President deems it to require.
It will not escape your attention, that commodore Hood's letter is dated no less than three months before it could have the effect of a notification, and that besides this remarkable delay, the alleged blockade is computed from a date more than one month prior to that of the letter itself. But these circumstances, however important it may be, do not constitute the main objection to the proceeding of the British commander. His letter, instead of stating that a particular port or ports were blockaded, by a force acVOL. VII.
tually before them, declares, generally, two entire and considerable islands to be in a state of blockade. It can never be admitted that the trade of a neutral nation in articles not contraband can be legally obstructed to any place not actually blockaded, or that any notification or proclamation can be of force, unless accompanied with an actual blockade. The law of nations is perhaps more clear on no other point than of that of a siege or blockade, such as will justify a belligerent nation in restraining the trade of neutrals. Every term, uscd in defining the case, imports the presence and position of a force, rendering access to the prohibited place manifestly difficult and dangerous. Every jurist of reputation, who treats with precision this branch of the law of nations, refers to an actual and particular blockade. Not a single treaty can be found which undertakes to define a blockade, in which the definition does not exclude a general or nominal blockade, by limiting it to the case of a sufficient force so disposed as to amount to an actual and particular blockade. To a number of such treaties Great Britain is a party. Not to multiply references on the subject, I confine myself to the fourth article of the convention, of June, 1801, between Great Britain and Russia, which having been entered into for the avowed purpose of settling an invariable determination of their principles upon the rights of neutrality,” must necessarily be considered as a solemn recognition of an existing and general principle and right, not as a stipulation of any new principle or right limited to the parties themselves. The article is in the words following: That in order to determine what characterizes a blockaded port, that denomination is given only to a port where there is, by the dispositions of the power which attacks it with ships stationary or sufficiently near, an evident danger of entering.” It cannot be necessary to dwell on the inconsistency of the kind of blockade declared by commodore Hood, with the principle laid down concerning the rights of neutrality; or on the consequences of the principle on which a blockade of whole islands by a few ships is founded, to the commerce and interests of neutral nations. If the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe, the latter not less than two hundred and fifty, and the former nearly one hundred and listy miles in circumference, and each containing a variety of ports, can be blockaded by detachments
from a commodore's squadron, it is evident that a very inconsiderable portion of the British fleet may blockade all the maritime countries with which she is at war. In a word, such a principle completely sacrifices the rights of neutral commerce to the pleasure or the policy of the parties at war. But it deserves to be particularly remarked, that a power, to proclaim general blockades, or any blockade not formed by the real presence of a sufficient force, to be exercised by officers at a distance from the control of their government, and deeply interested in enlarging the field of captures which they are to share, offers a temptation that must often aggravate the evils incident to the principle itself. You will inser, sir, from these observations, the serious light in which the President regards the proceeding which is the subject of them; and wilt perceive the grounds on which the injuries accruing from it to our commerce, will constitute just claims of indemnification from the British government. To diminish the extent of these injuries as much as possible, and to guard the good understanding and friendly relations of every sort, which are so desirable to both nations, againstthe tendency of such measures, will, I venture to assure myself, be sufficient motives with you to employ the interpositions with commodore Hood, which you may judge best adapted to the nature of the case. I have the honour to be, &c.
JAMES MADISON. Edward Thornton, Esq. &c. &c. &c.
Mr. Smith to Mr. Pinkney. Department of State, July
5, 1810. Sir, -Your last communications having afforded so little ground for expecting, that the British government will have yielded to the call on it to originate the annulment of the belligerent edicts against our lawful commerce, by cancelling the spurious blockade of May, 1806, (the first in the series) it became a duty, particularly incumbent upon us, to press the other experiment held out in the late act of Congress, another copy of which is herewith sent. You will accordingly make that act, and the disposition of
the President to give it effect, the subject of a formal communication.
The British government ought not to be insensible of the tendency of superadding, to a refusal of the course proposed by France for mutually abolishing the predatory edicts, a refusal of the invitation held out by Congress; and it ought to find in that consideration a sufficient inducement to a prompt and cordial concurrence. The British government must be conscious also of its having repeatedly stated, that the acquiescence by the United States in the decrees of France, was the only justification of its orders against our neutral commerce. The sincerity and consistency of Great Britain being now brought to the test, an opportunity is afforded to evince the existence of both. It may be added, that the form in which it is prescribed is as conciliatory as the proposal itself is unexceptionable.
As the act of Congress, repealing the late restrictions on the commerce of the United States with the two belligerents, must be unequal in its operation, in case Great Brilain should continue to interrupt it with France, inasmuch as France is unable to interrupt it materially with her, the British government may feel a temptation to decline a course which might put an end to this advantage. But if the unworthiness and unfriendliness of such a purpose should not divert her from it, she ought not to overlook either the opportunity afforded her enemy of retorting the inequality, by a previous compliance with the act of Congress, or the necessity to which the United States may be driven, by such an abuse of their amicable advances, to resume, under new impressions, the subject of their foreign relations.
If the British government should be disposed to meet in a favourable manner the arrangement tendered, and should ask for explanations, as to the extent of the repeal of the French decrees which will be required, your answer will be as obvious as it must be satisfactory. The repeal. must embrace every part of the French decrees which violate the neutral rights guarantied to us by the law of nations. Whatever parts of the decrees may not have this effect, as we have no right, as a neutral nation, to demand a recall of them, Great Britain can have no pretext, as a belligerent nation, to urge the demand. If there be parts