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قراءة كتاب A History, of the War of 1812-15 Between The United States and Great Britain

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A History, of the War of 1812-15 Between The United States and Great Britain

A History, of the War of 1812-15 Between The United States and Great Britain

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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retaliation—which became famous as the "orders in council," and the "Berlin and Milan decrees"—had very little effect upon the people who were at war, but they laid some of the heaviest penalties of war upon the one maritime nation that was at peace with all. Instead of resorting to war at once, the United States Government, being as well able as any other to issue a foolish proclamation, laid an embargo, December 22d, 1807, upon all shipping in American ports, prohibiting exportations therefrom. This measure met with violent opposition in New England, which was more largely interested in commerce than any other part of the country. The coast of New England presented innumerable harbors, and her forests were full of the finest ship-timber, while in agriculture she could not compete with the States having richer soils and a less rigorous climate. Cotton-spinning was in its infancy, and the manufactures that were to employ her water-powers had not been developed. She naturally and properly looked to the carrying trade as her best means of livelihood. The orders in council and the Berlin and Milan decrees imposed great risks and unjust restrictions upon it, but did not altogether destroy it; the embargo suppressed it at once.

In March, 1809, Congress repealed the embargo, and substituted a system of non-importation and non-intercourse with France and Great Britain. Voyages to their dominions, and trade in articles produced by them, were prohibited; but it was provided that whenever either of those nations should repeal its decrees against neutral commerce, the restriction should be removed as to that nation.

This at last produced some effect, and the French Government revoked the Berlin and Milan decrees, the revocation to take effect on the 1st of November, 1810; the letter of the French Minister communicating the fact to the American Minister adding that it was "clearly understood that the English orders in council were to be revoked at the same time." In August of that year, Hon. William Pinkney, United States Minister at London, laid this before the British Government, but was told that the English decrees would be revoked "after the French revocation should have actually taken place." This was a most palpable evasion, since it is very common for treaties and governmental orders to contain clauses which render them operative only in certain contingencies, and it was the easiest thing in the world for England to give her revocation precisely the same form as that of France, when each would have put the other in force on the date named. If any further proof had been wanted that the British Government was determined to suppress American commerce, at least till her own ships could resume the carrying trade of the world, it was supplied when in 1812 Lord Castlereagh, Minister for Foreign Affairs, declared officially that "the decrees of Berlin and Milan must not be repealed singly and specially, in relation to the United States, but must be repealed also as to all other neutral nations; and that in no less extent of a repeal of the French decrees had the British Government pledged itself to repeal the orders in council." That is, the rights of the United States as a neutral nation were not to be regarded by England, unless the United States could induce or compel France to regard not only these rights but those of all other neutral nations!

With this tangle of orders, decrees, and proclamations, with an important part of the Treaty of 1783 unfulfilled, with unlawful impressments daily taking place on the high seas, and with no disposition on the part of the chief aggressor to right these wrongs, it is difficult to see how negotiations could have been continued longer, or the alternative of war avoided. On the first day of June, 1812, President Madison sent a message to Congress, in which he set forth the facts that necessitated war; Congress accordingly declared war on the 18th, and the next day the President proclaimed it. On the 23d, before this news was received, England revoked her orders in council, thus removing one of the grievances, but still leaving those which amply justified the declaration.

It thus appears that the immediate and specific causes of the war of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain were complex; but the general cause, the philosophic reason, was simply the determined purpose manifested by England to nullify and render valueless the political independence gained by the American colonies in the Revolution.

Since the inauguration of President Jefferson, in 1801, the Government had been in the hands of the Republicans, and all measures looking toward war with England were opposed by the party out of power—the Federalists. The young reader must not be confused by the change of names which political parties have undergone between that day and this. The Republican party of Jefferson's day was the predecessor of what is now called the Democratic party; while the Republican party of our own day is to some extent the successor of the Federal party of that day. Presidents Washington and Adams were Federalists, or what would now be called Republicans; Presidents Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were Republicans, or what would now be called Democrats.

The Federalists in Congress protested against the declaration of war; and this protest was repeated in every possible form by the Federal newspapers, by mass-meetings, in numerous political pamphlets, and even in many pulpits. The opposition was especially strong in the New England States. The arguments of those who opposed the war were, that the country was not prepared for such a struggle, could not afford it, and would find it a hopeless undertaking; that the war policy had been forced upon Madison's administration by the Republican party, in order to strengthen that party and keep it in power; that if we had cause for war with England, we had cause for war with France also, and it was unreasonable to declare war against one of those powers and not against both. The last argument was the one most vehemently urged, and the war party was denounced and sneered at as making our Government a tool of France. There was a certain amount of truth in each of these propositions. The country was poorly prepared for war at all, least of all with the most powerful of nations. Madison probably had been given to understand that unless he recommended a declaration of war, he need not expect a renomination at the hands of his party. And we certainly had cause of war with France, whose cruisers had captured or destroyed many of our merchantmen. But the position of the Federalists on this question furnishes a singular example of the fact that an argument may sometimes be true in each of its parts, and yet incorrect in its grand conclusion. It seldom happens that any people are prepared for a just and defensive war; they begin their preparations for such a contest after the necessity is upon them. While a portion of the Republican party were undoubtedly actuated by selfish motives, as is the case with some portion of every party, the greater part were unquestionably patriotic, and advocated war because they believed it to be necessary. The crowning argument—that the United States had a grievance against France as well as England, and should make war on both if on either—would have been unanswerable if it had been a moral warfare that was in question. But in military matters it is necessary to consider what is practicable as well as what is logical. For our Government to attempt to fight England and France at the same time, would have been simply suicidal. A good

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