« ZurückWeiter »
that the United States should be represented at the proposed Congress; stating, at the same time, that they did not desire the latter to depart from their neutrality, or expect them to take part in such of the deliberations as might regard the prosecution of the ex'isting war with Spain. To this invitation, the executive of the United States answered, that such a Congress as was contemplated might be highly useful in settling 'several important and disputed questions of public law, in arranging matters of deep interest to the whole American continent, and in strengthening the ties of friendship and mutual good-will among the American powers; but that it would be expedient first to adjust among the states, of whose representations it was intended to be composed, such preliminary points as its organization—the nature and form of the diplomatic agents who were to compose it— and the topics to which their attention was to be directed. If these matters were arranged to the satisfaction of the United States, it was the opinion of the president that they ought to be represented at Panama, where the Congress was intended to be held. These preliminary points having beeh settled, the executive named its representatives to the Congress; but considerable difference of opinion as to the propriety of the measure, prevailed in the legislative bodies. Inthe Senate as Well as in the House of Representatives, the question was sent to a committee on foreign relations. The committee of the Senate objected to the measure, on the ground that there was still a want of concurrence of opinion among
the different parties on several material points; that it threatened to compromise the neutrality of the United States; and that some of the proposed subjects of deliberation would be better settled in separate negotiations with the individual states, than in a conference with all. They, therefore, recommended a resolution, "that it is inexpedient for the United States to send any minister to the Congress of Panama." On the other hand, the committee of the House of Representatives, recommended a resolution, "That, in the opinion of the House, it is expedient to appropriate the funds necessary to enable the president of the United States to send ministers to the Congress of Panama." This recommendation they justified by the consideration, that, as the subjects on which the Congress was to deliberate were of primary importance to the country, the measure, instead of being prejudicial to public interests, was of the most obvious political expediency; that, as it was stipulated that the neutrality of the United States should not be brought into hazard, all apprehensions of becoming involved in entangling alliances were unfounded, and the Congress would be regarded, in so far as the United States were concerned, as being purely a consultative assembly. This opinion prevailed, and the necessary sums were voted for the ex* pehsesofthe mission, the ministers having been already named by the president.
By an act of parliament passed in 1822, the trade with the British West-Indian colonies had been partially opened to America. That statute permitted certain enumerated articles to be imported into certain specified ports in the colonies, from any foreign country in America or the West Indies, in British vessels, or in vessels of such foreign country indiscriminately; it also allowed the articles so imported, to be exported to any other colony, or to the United Kingdom. Although this privilege extended, in words, to all the countries of America, it was, in reality, an exclusive benefit conferred upon the United States; for the new South American States had as yet nothing which could deserve the name of a commercial marine. It was a benefit, too, which the United States cottljd /never have demanded as a right,'and which, in point of fact, hfcd< not'rbeen. conceded to any European power. They laid hold ogfithe trade which was thus open torthent;:but, instead of meeting tier relaxation; which had been made in their favour, in any friendly spirit, they immediately burtheried. British vessels with higher duties, and set up claims to the colonial markets which were unheard of among independent powers. In the session of Congress which followed the passing of the act of 1822, they made a law, imposing upon British vessels coming from the West Indies, an alien duty of 94 cents per ton, and an additional duty of 10 per cent upon their cargoes. To this enactment, sufficiently unfair and ungracious in itself, they superadded a provision, that these alien duties should continue in force, not until their ships should be admitted into the colonies on the same terms with British ships, and their produce and merchandize on the same terms the alien imposts upon British shipping. The restrictions which clogged the partial concession of the trade made by this country to America, in 1822, had been professedly made the foundation of the act of Congress of 1823; but by the act of 1825 these restrictions were done away; and, if the United States were really desirous of establishing in commerce that freedom and reciprocity, of which, in their diplomatic documents, they professed to be the most liberal adherents, nothing remained to justify the continuance of limitations which even originally were founded on unwarrantable pretensions. The United States, however, did not think proper to accept of the more liberal offer which was now made to them, although to retain the alien duties imposed in 1823, and to claim the admission of her produce on the same terms with that of the mother-country, was in fact to demand every thing of Great Britain and to give nothing in return. They refused to abate any thing of what was required by that act of congress, an obstinacy obviously most unreasonable and unjust, and which could have no other result than a prohibition of the intercourse which they refused to accept on the same terms with the rest of the world, and on which alone it could fairly be asked. So far was congress from being inclined to repeal or relax the restrictions imposed by its act of 1823, that, during the present session, when that assembly had full knowledge of the act of parliament of 1825, a motion for the repeal of the discriminating duties was rejected after debate. The consequence was, that, in
with those of any other the most favoured nation, but until "proof should be given to the satisfaction of the president of the United States, that no other or higher duties of tonnage or impost, and no other charges of any kind, are exacted in the British colonial ports on the vessels of the United States, and upon any goods, wares, or merchandize, therein imported from the United States, than upon British vessels entering the same ports,and upon the like goods, wares, and merchandize, imported in such vessels from elsewhere." By another clause, which provided, that no British ship, entering an American port from the United Kingdom, or from any other British possession, except directly from the West-India colonies, should be allowed to clear from any port of the United States for any of these colonies, an interdict was laid upon any trade being carried on between the mothercountry and her colonies, through the United States. At first, the British government misappre- ,hended the import of the words "from elsewhere;" conceiving it to mean only foreign countries, and never supposing that the United States could intend to set up so extravagant a pretension as that of being admitted on the same terms withthemother-country into the markets of her own colonies. However, after several official notes had been interchanged between the British envoy at Washington, and the American secre'tary of state, it was ascertained that such was the concession required by the act of Congress as the condition of removing the additional alien duties imposed on the tonnage and cargoes of
July of this year, the colonial harbours were directed, by aa order in council, to be shut against American vessels after the 1st of December ensuing. The British government would have been justified in excluding them immediately, and without any more specific notice than was given by the law itself; especially as it had not come into operation till the expiry of five months after its enactment, and had already been the subject of consideration both to the government and to the legislature of the United States. From the 5th of January, 1826, when the operation of the act commenced, American vessels ought, in strictness, to have been excluded; but as, in point of fact, they had still been admitted, it was thought due, perhaps, to the courtesy to be expected from one friendly nation towards another, to give the United States a new warning, a prorogated period, an additional opportunity of becoming just and reasonable. The American government now felt the difficulties in which they had involved themselves; their trade with the colonies was at an end, and yet they were unable to discover any feasible pretence for having refused to retain it upon conditions actually much more fair and beneficial than the terms upon which they had hitherto enjoyed it. They resolved to submit the whole matter to congress in its ensuing session, that body having already, during the present year, in full knowledge of the act of 1825, refused every proposal to modify or abolish the limitations of their act of 1823; and the American secretary of state, and their minister at London, in the communications which they were ;now com-*pelled to make to the British government, complained at great length, and most querulously, that the latter should have regulated the trade by an act of parliament, instead of renewing those negotiations for arranging it by treaty which had been begun in 1824. This was a strange complaint in the mouth of a government, which more than three years before had actually regulated this very trade by an act of congress which rendered it impossible for them to negociate; an act, moreover, on explicit compliance with every one of whose requisitions, their envoy had insisted as a preliminary to negotiation, while this demanded compliance was both impudent and absurd, and an absolute bar in the way of any treaty about the matter. It was the United States themselves who had shut the door against treaty; they had done, and, after being made fully aware of its consequences, they persevered in, an act which had rendered negotiation nugatory; an act by which her executive was bound, and its hands tied up. Their public functionaries were not at liberty to exercise their own discretion; the law had prescribed a preliminary requisite as a. sine qua non in any arrangement; that requisite was one to which neither Great Britain, nor any other independent nation, could listen for a moment, and which no country but the United States had ever had the coolness to propose; and it would have been a mockery, unworthy of the dignity of the British government, to treat with the executive power of America upon a basis which the supreme authority of the latter disavowed. The
American ministers might now be convinced of the absurdity and extravagance of their demands, and be willing to recede from them, but they could not recede: these demands had been made by congress, and fixed by the law: it was congress that had to recede; and, so far from showing any disposition to do so, it had, in this very year, refused to listen to a proposal for repealing those discriminating duties which its ministers said, in the instructions to their envoy at London, they, for their parts, were willing to see abolished on both sides.* In the calm and reasonable, but decided language of Mr. Canning to the American envoy, "It is not made matter of complaint, by the British government, that the United States have declined conditions, which other nations have thought worthy of their acceptance. It is on the other hand, not the fault of the British government, if the United States have suffered the time to pass by, at which it might have been an object of greater importance to this country to induce the United States to come into their proposals. The United States exercised, upon this point, a free judgment, and they can, on their part, have no reason to complain that Great Britain, after allowing ample time for maturing that judgment, is contented to abide the result of their decision. But the British government further owes to the spirit of frankness which it wishes to cultivate in all its relations with the United States, to declare, that, after having been compelled to apply to
^ iHi' i i ■■ I■ .ii—! — '—'——
* Mr. Clay's instructions to Mr- Gallatin, 19th June, 1826.