James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Congress, 16 June 1812 (Abstract)

§ To Congress

16 June 1812. “I transmit, for the information of Congress, copies of a letter to the Secretary of State from the Charge de Affaires of the United States at London, accompanied by a letter from the latter to the British Minister of foreign affairs.”1

RC and enclosures, two copies (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 12A-D1; and DNA: RG 46, Legislative Proceedings, 12A-E2). Each RC 1 p.; in the hand of Edward Coles, signed by JM. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1JM forwarded copies of a 26 Apr. 1812 letter from Jonathan Russell to Monroe (1 p.) containing “a declaration and an order in council” of the British government of 21 Apr. 1812, “a note from Lord Castlereagh” accompanying the communication of these to Russell, and Russell’s 25 Apr. reply to that note (printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Foreign Relations, 3:427–31). A note at the foot of the copy of Russell’s letter to Monroe states that the note from Lord Castlereagh to Russell had not yet been received in the State Department. It had apparently been accidentally omitted from Russell’s 26 Apr. dispatch and was forwarded on 2 May.

The declaration Russell forwarded was that made by the prince regent on 21 Apr. 1812 at Carlton House in response to the duc de Bassano’s report of 10 Mar. 1812 to Napoleon and the French Senate (see Joel Barlow to JM, 2 May 1812, and n. 3). The order in council restated the British conditions for the repeal of the 1807 and 1809 orders in council as they had been prescribed in the prince regent’s declaration.

Russell’s answering letter, dated 25 Apr. 1812 (16 pp.), stated that he was compelled to consider the prince’s declaration “as an unequivocal proof of the determination of His Britannic Majesty’s Government to adhere to a system, which, both as to principle and fact, originated, and has been continued in error; and against which the Government of the UStates so long as it respects itself and the essential rights of the nation over which it is placed, cannot cease to contend.” Russell expressed disappointment that Great Britain did not follow France by revoking the orders in council but instead denied that France had exempted the U.S. from the Berlin and Milan decrees. In his view, it had “been established by declarations and facts” that France had repealed its decrees, independent of any act of Great Britain, while the several instances of “acquittal of American vessels and cargoes, to which the decrees would have attached, if still in force,” as well as the fact that few captures had occurred, stood as evidence of French repeal. Russell lamented that proof of the continuance of the French decrees should be inferred from a secondhand report of the duc de Bassano’s address to the French Senate, while so much convincing evidence of their repeal existed. Russell concluded by avowing that he could not “accompany the communication to my Government of the declaration & order in Council of the 21st of this month, with any felicitation on the prospect which this measure presents of an accelerated return of Amity & mutual confidence between the two States.”

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