June 13 1812: Monroe to Foster

On June 13, 1812, a frustrated Secretary of State James Monroe continues to respond to Augustus Foster. He writes that it is impossible for him "to devise or conceive any arrangement consistent with the honor, the rights, and interests of the United States, that could be made the basis, or become the result of a conference on the subject" of the orders in council except their repeal. Nevertheless, he will continue to entertain anything that Foster has to offer but he suggests he should do it in writing as this will provide for the "requisite precision, and least liable to misapprehension". He also urges that it be done "without delay." Monroe's letter is reproduced below.

Mr. Monroe to Mr. Foster.
Sir: Department Op State, June 13, 1812.
I am not aware that any letter of yours, on any subject on which the final decision of this Government had not been communicated to you, has been suffered to remain without a prompt and written answer; and even in the cases thus supposed to have been settled, which you thought proper to revive, although no favorable change had taken place in the policy or measures of your Government, I have never failed to explain to you informally, in early interviews, the reasons which made it imperiously the duty of the United States to continue to afford to their rights and interests all the protection in their power. The acknowledgment of this, on your part, was due to the frankness of the t communications which have passed between us on the highly important subjects on which we have treated, and I am happy to find by your letter of the 10th inst. that, in relying on it, I have not been disappointed.

The impropriety of the demand made by your Government of a copy of the instrument or instructions given by the French Government to its cruisers, after the repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees, was sufficiently shown in Mr. Pinkney's letter to the Marquis Welleslcy of the 10th of December, 1810, and in my letters to you of 23d July, 1811, and 14th January last. It was for this reason that I thought it more suitable to refer you to those letters for the answer to that demand, than to repeat it in a formal communication.

It excites, however, no small surprise that you should continue to demand a copy of that instrument, or any new proof of the repeal of the French decrees, at the very time that you declare that the proof which you demand, in the extent to which we have a right to claim the repeal, would not, if afforded, obtain a corresponding repeal of the orders in council. This demand is the more extraordinary, when it is considered that since the repeal of the decrees, as it respects the United States, was announced, your Government has enlarged its pretensions as to the conditions on which the orders in council should be repealed, and even invigorated its practice under them.

It is satisfactory to find that there has been no misapprehension of the condition, without which, your Government refuses to repeal the orders in council. You admit that, to obtain their repeal, in respect to the United States, the 60 Vol. m. repeal of the French decrees must be absolute and unconditional, not as to the United States only, but as to all other neutral nations; nor as far as they affect neutral commerce only, but as they operate internally and affect the trade in British manufactures with the enemies of Great Britain. As the orders in council have formed a principal cause of the differences which unhappily exist between our countries, a condition of their repeal, communicated in any authentic document or manner, was entitled to particular attention; and surely none could have so high a claim to it as the letter from Lord Castlereagh to you, submitted by his authority to my view, for the express purpose of making that condition, with its other contents, known to this Government.

With this knowledge of the determination of your Government, to say nothing of the other conditions annexed to the repeal of the orders iti council, it is impossible for me to devise or conceive any arrangement consistent with the honor, the rights, and interests of the United States, that could be made the basis, or become the result of a conference on the subject. As the President, nevertheless, retains his solicitude to see a happy termination of any difference between the two countries, and wishes that every opportunity, however unpromising, which may possibly lead to it, should be taken advantage of, I have the honor to inform you that I am ready to receive and pay due attention to any communications or propositions having that object in view which you may be authorized to make.

Under existing circumstances, it is deemed most advisable, in every respect, that this should be done in writing, as most susceptible of the requisite precision, and least liable to misapprehension. Allow me to add, that it is equally desirable that it should be done without delay. By this it is not meant to preclude any additional opportunity which may be afforded by a personal interview.

I have the honor to be, &c.

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