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June 30 1812: Russell to Monroe

On June 30, 1812, Jonathan Russell, the American diplomat in London, writes to James Monroe about the repeal of the Orders in Council.  Russell describes how the government had to give way on the issue. He writes: "Many members of the House of Commons, who had been the advocates of the orders in council, particularly Mr. Wilberforce, and others from the northern counties, were forced now to make a stand against them, or to meet the indignation of their constituents at the approaching election. It is, therefore, the country, and not the opposition, which has driven the ministers to yield on this occasion; and the eloquence of Mr. Brougham would have been in vain had it been destitute of this support." Russell's letter is reproduced below. 
Extracts of a letter from Mr. Russell to Mr. Monroe.


London, June 30, 1812.


I have at length had the satisfaction to announce to you, in my letters of the 26th instant, the revocation of the orders in council.


You will, without doubt, be somewhat surprised that this revocation is founded on the French decree of the 28th of April, 1811.


The real cause of the revocation is the measures of our Government. These measures have produced a degree of distress among the manufacturers of this country that was becoming intolerable; and an apprehension of still greater misery from the calamities of war drove them to speak a language which could not be misunderstood or disregarded.


Many members of the House of Commons, who had been the advocates of the orders in council, particularly Mr. Wilberforce, and others from the northern counties, were forced now to make a stand against them, or to meet the indignation of their constituents at the approaching election. It is, therefore, the country, and not the opposition, which has driven the ministers to yield on this occasion; and the eloquence of Mr. Brougham would have been in vain had it been destitute of this support.


What has now been done has been most reluctantly done, and yielded to coercion instead of being dictated by a spirit of justice and conciliation. The ministers were resolved to concede nothing until the last extremity. Lord Castlereagh undoubtedly went down to the House of Commons on the 16th instant determined to preserve the orders in council in their full force; and when he perceived that he should be in the minority, he endeavored to compromise by giving up as little as possible.


It was decided by the cabinet, in consequence of the vague declarations of his lordship on that night, to suspend the orders in council, and to make this suspension to depend upon conditions to be previously proposed to the United States. Driven from this ground by the motion of Mr. Brougham for the call of the House for Thursday, the 25th of this month, the ministers at length issued the order of the 23d, and even this order was carried in the cabinet by a small majority, only five members voting against it. With these facts before me, I feel myself constrained to chasten my exultation on what has taken place, with some fear of a return of the old injustice in a new form

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