April 21: 1812: Orders In Council Declaration

On April 21, 1812, Lord Castlereagh delivered to Jonathan Russell, the American representative in Britain, a formal declaration, on behalf of the Prince Regent, with respect to the Orders in Council. The declaration used the equivocating language of diplomats but it also clearly declared that whenever the French government should publish an authentic act expressly and unconditionally repealing the Berlin and Milan Decrees, then Orders in Council would be wholly and absolutely revoked. Unfortunately, Jonathan Russell did not appreciate the subtle changes or new emphasis in the British policy that was now moving quickly to repeal the Orders in Council. Castlereagh's letter, accompanying the Declaration, added that he hoped Russell would communicate to the American government that "this measure as conceived in the true spirit of conciliation and with a due regard on the part of His Royal Highness to the honor and interests of the United States and the undersigned ventures to express his confident hope that this decisive proof of the amicable sentiments which animate the councils of His Royal Highness towards America may accelerate the return of amity and mutual confidence between the two States." The Declaration is reproduced below:

At the court at Carlton House the 21st of April 1812 Present His Royal Highness the Prince Regent in council.
Whereas the Government of France has, by an official report communicated by its Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Conservative Senate, on the 10th of March last, removed all doubts as to the perseverance of that Government in the assertion of principles, and in the maintenance of a system not more hostile to the maritime rights and commercial interests of the British empire, than inconsistent with the rights and independence of neutral nations, and has thereby plainly developed the inordinate pretensions which that system, as promulgated in the decrees of Berlin and Milan, was from the first designed to enforce:
And whereas His Majesty has invariably professed his readiness to revoke the orders in council adopted thereupon as soon as the said decrees of the enemy should be formally and unconditionally repealed, and the commerce of neutral nations restored to its accustomed course:
His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, anxious to give the most decisive proof of His Royal Highness's disposition to perform the engagements of His Majesty's Government, is pleased, in the name and on the behalf of His Majesty, and by and with the advice of His Majesty's privy council,  to order and declare, and it is hereby ordered and declared, That if at any time hereafter the Berlin and Milan decrees shall, by some authentic act of the French Government, publicly promulgated, be absolutely and unconditionally repealed, then and from thenceforth, the order in council of the seventh day of January, one thousand eight hundred and seven, and the order in council of the twenty sixth day of April, one thousand eight hundred and nine, shall without any further order be and the same are hereby declared from thenceforth to be wholly and absolutely revoked: And further, that the full benefit of this order shall be extended to any ship or cargo captured subsequent to such authentic act of repeal of the French decrees, although, antecedent to such repeal,  such ship or vessel shall have commenced, and shall be in the prosecution of a voyage, which under the said orders in council, or one of them, would have subjected her to capture and condemnation; and the claimant of any ship or cargo, which shall be captured or brought to adjudication, on account of any alleged breach of either of the said orders in council,  at any time subsequent to such authentic act of repeal by the French Government,  shall, without any further order or declaration on the part of His Majesty's Government, on this subject be at liberty to give in evidence in the High Court of Admiralty or any Court of Vice Admiralty, before which such ship or cargo shall be brought for adjudication, that such repeal by the French Government had been, by such authentic act promulgated prior to such capture; and, upon proof thereof, the voyage shall be deemed and taken to have been as lawful as if the said orders in council had never been made, saving, nevertheless, to the captors such protection and indemnity as they may be equitably entitled to in the judgment of the said court, by reason of their ignorance, or uncertainty as to the repeal of the French decrees, or of the recognition of such repeal by His Majesty's Government at the time of such capture. 
His Royal Highness, however, deems it proper to declare, that should the repeal of the French decrees, thus anticipated and provided for, prove afterwards to have been illusory on the part of the enemy, and should the restrictions thereof be still practically enforced or revived by the enemy, Great Britain will be compelled, however reluctantly after reasonable notice to have recourse to such measures of retaliation as may then appear to be just and necessary. 
And the right honorable the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury, His Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty and the Judge of the High Court of Admiralty and the of the Courts of Vice Admiralty, are to take the necessary measures herein as to them shall respectively appertain. 

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