Historical Americana

By: Scott Winslow  09-12-2011

“Great Britain And France Seem To Vie With Each Other In Adopting The Most Effectual Measures In Their Power To Embarrass And Destroy Our Commerce” “….It May Become Indispensable Necessary For Us In Vindication Of Our National Rights and Independence, To Enter Into The Destructive Scenes Of War, The Last Appeal For Justice By An Injured Nation” GEORGE WASHINGTON CAMPBELL (1769-1848) American statesman who served as 5th United States Secretary of the Treasury and as a United States Senator. Printed Circular. Three pages. Washington City. April 14th, 1808. Franked by Campbell on integral address leaf: “Free Geo W. Campbell” and addressed in his hand to “John Coulter Esq Rutledge, Tennessee.” The circular reads in part: “…our relation with the belligerent powers of Europe have not assumed a more favorable aspect. Great Britain and France seem to vie with each other in adopting the most effectual measures in their power to embarrass and destroy our commerce. The cause that produced the embargo law have not yet ceased; but on the contrary every act of those two great rival powers towards us affords new proof of the policy and necessity of the measure, at the time it was adopted, and of continuing in force until either justice be done us by those powers, or we are prepared to go to war to maintain those rights which have been so grossly violated. The arrival of Mr. Rose, the minister extraordinary from Great Britain to this country, excited some hopes that our differences with that nation would at length be amicably adjusted. But those hopes were considerably diminished when it was ascertained that his powers were confined to the outrage committed on our sovereignty in the affair of the Chesapeake alone. To remove however, all pretext on the part of Great Britain for refusing to make just and honorable reparation for this unprovoked set of hostility, acknowledged by herself to be authorized, and the pretended right under which it was done disavowed, our government agreed to separate the adjustment of this affair from the other matters of difference between the two nations; confidently relying there would then remain no obstacle to making the just reparation which the nature of the case and the wounded feelings and honor of this nation so imperiously required. But no sooner was the condition agreed to, than the British minister demanded as a preliminary to negotiation on the subject, that the proclamation of the President of the United states interdicting out ports and harbors to British armed vessels should be revoked … It was in fact adding insult to injury, by calling on the injured party to make concession in the first instance, instead of receiving, as our government had a right to expect, ample and unconditional reparation for an act that was acknowledged to be a lawless and unauthorized attack upon on sovereignty … Mr. Rose informed our government he was not authorized to make know even the nature or extent of the reparation that would be offered, until the proclamation was revoked; and this of course closed the discussion on this subject … By her orders of council which were issued in November last, Great Britain has in fact declared that every American vessel that sails on the ocean shall be subjected to capture and confiscation by her cruisers – be forced into her ports, there to pay such duties as her government may impose … his vessels are taken at seas, carried into the British ports, and there compelled to pay duties, which is in fact nothing less than forcing him to pay a tax on the products of his own country … The duties proposed to be laid, are also extravagant, beyond all calculation – being nine pence sterling per pound on cotton, more than its original cost, and more than 20 percent on most other articles. To such measures as these a free people will never submit … On the other hand France by her late decrees, has subjected to capture and confiscation, not only all neutral vessels having goods of British growth or manufacture on board, or destined for British port, but also all neutral vessels that shall submit to be visited and examined by British cruisers. The consequence of these orders and decrees is, that not a neutral ship can sail, that is not subject to confiscation, by one or other of the belligerent powers. Under such circumstances a continuance of the embargo for some time is rendered absolutely necessary. By it we impose a severe pressure on those nations, particularly as regards their West India colonies, which at the same time we preserve our merchandise and seamen from certain capture … it may become indispensable necessary for us in vindication of our national rights and independence, to enter into the destructive scenes of war, the last appeal for justice by an injured nation … In such crisis as the present, the most effectual way to preserve peace, is to be prepared for war. For this purpose, in addition to the authority given the Executive to erect fortifications and build gun-boats … a law has passed for raising an additional military force of about six thousand men, to aid in the general defense of the nation, and protect against sudden attacks the most exposed and vulnerable points of our extensive frontier, particularly New Orleans … A law has passed continuing in force the law authorize the President to call into actual service on hundred thousand militia, in case the exigency of the country shall require it …I know my fellow citizens will not be wanting in the day of danger. The patriotic flame of liberty will burn in every bosom, and inspire every true American to perform his duty ….” Campbell’s content rich circular provides in-depth insight into the difficulties facing the fledgling American nation following the close of the War of Independence with Great Britain and the subsequent Quasi-War with France. With the War of 1812 looming, American vessels were at constant threat of seizure by both European nations and American seamen found themselves impressed into the service of the British crown at every turn. Specifically, Campbell calls attention to the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair of June 1807. The American vessel Chesapeake was fired upon by the British Leopard after refusing to comply with a British request to search the vessel for deserters. This attack was the precipitating factor that led to the War of 1812 and also drove the U.S. to institute the Embargo Act of 1807 against England, another subject of Campbell’s circular. While diplomatic and economic attempts such as the ill-fated Embargo Act, which showed limited benefits internationally and served to increase political tensions within the United States itself, were initially adopted, tensions continued to build in the ensuing years, ultimately resulting once again in open hostilities with the British. Aside from this astounding content regarding the increasing tensions between the United States, France, and Britain, Campbell’s circular also offers details on the current debt of the United States, and also comments upon a treaty made recently with the Choctaw nation that saw the U.S. obtain about five million acres in the Mississippi Territory and the passage of a law dividing the state of Tennessee. Some paper loss at usual folds throughout document, else Very Fine.

Catalog: # AA-0283

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