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to bow. They conceive, that it is not within the authority of any one nation to legislate for the rest; and that the law of nations, being founded on the tacit convention of the nations that observe it, can be binding only on those nations, which have adopted it. Any other conclusion would lead to the most mischievous consequences, and oblige every nation to vindicate every other against aggressions, though its own rights might be undisputed. To give any precedent, therefore, a binding authority among nations, it must have been recognised as such by them; and no argument of its admission can be drawn from their silence, when the subject did not necessarily engage their immediate interest. An injurious pretension, when not applied to a particular state, might be easily dismissed without consideration.
But your Memorialists, after all the inquiry, which they have been able to make, confess themselves wholly ignorant of any precedent of the present rule in the year 1756. The cases of that period, which are relied on as proof, seem to them wholly inadequate for the purpose. As far as their researches extend, those cases respected the Dutch, and proceeded on a principle entirely different. They were cases, in which Dutch vessels became the carriers of colonial produce, the property of the enemies of Great Britain. This trade was vindicated on the ground of a special treaty between Great Britain and Holland, wbich provided, that free ships should make free goods; and it was ultimately declared illegal, because enemies' goods were protected by that treaty only in the accustomed trade. No controversy appears to have been raised as to the security of neutral property under similar circumstances. Nor should it be forgotten, that the Dutch protested, in terms of the warmest reprobation, against those condemnations, and asserted them to be contrary to the general law, as well as to the faith of treaties. Those cases seem, therefore, certainly to fail in analogy to those, which they are cited to govern. In the one class, the property is neutral ; in the other, hostile; in the one, the trade is for the sole benefit of the peutral; in the other, for the sole benefit of the belligerent. In a word, the one respects the rights of peaceful nations according to the public law; the other the construction of particular treaties. The precedent seems, therefore, to want every essential similitude; and is traversable in every variety of its application.
Yet, admitting the precedent to be in point, if it stands solitary, if it has subsequently slumbered during nearly fifty years, unacknowledged abroad, and unenforced at home ; it surely cannot weigh on the present occasion. It is conceded by the British civilians, that during the American revolution the doctrine was entirely pretermitted, and the commerce of neutrals was pursued according to the ancient code. Many cases of this period might be cited from the admiralty records, which overthrow the rule, and expressly vindicate the opposite rule. If precedents are to decide, the judgments of a tribunal established in Great Britain under her sole appointment, and acting with open powers, must surely, when acquiescence creates the law, completely establish the renunciation of the contested rule. It is in vain to resort to conjectures or ingenious subtilties to fritter away authorities. The faith of the nation has been pledged by its tribunals; and it is too late now to travel out of the record. Place the whole argument of precedent in its strongest light, and it will appear, that in the year 1756 the doctrine was first assumed, and in the year 1801 was first executed.
So far, however, from being recognised, this pretended rule of the year 1756 was pointedly denied, at the moment of its introduction, by the power affected by it; and on its late resuscitation it has met the determined reprobation of the United States. Our minister at the Court of London, on the development of it in the year 1801, remonstrated against it in a spirited memorial. Indeed, Russia, France, Sweden, Denmark, Prussia, Portugal, and Austria, in the celebrated League of the armed neutrality in the year 1780, expressly declared, and Great Britain was then compelled to admit, as the law of nations, that all neutrals may freely navigate from port to port, and on the coasts of the nations at war. Contraband articles and blockaded ports were the only admitted exceptions. This solemn protest of Europe, after an elaborate discussion, in which all neutral nations assisted, is singly opposed by the instructions of Great Britain, and is to be outweighed by an obscure and resisted precedent. Nay more, the united voice of the maritime world, and the practice of ages, must yield to the interested decisions of a single state, and change with the varying policy of its cabinet. There is, indeed, no difficulty in referring principles to former times, when it suits the public convenience ; and as the argument of ancient usage is of deep concern in national pretensions, it is too often a cover for unjustifiable spoliations.
With these preliminaries, your Memorialists feel confidence in asserting, that goods not contraband, fairly purchased by the neutral, are free to the market of every country, and protected from seizure, except in cases of blockade. Guided by these principles, they perceive a plain and honorable path for commerce. Beyond them all is involved in uncertainty.
It is not the least singularity attending the conduct of the present war, that Great Britain has licensed berown subjects in a trade, which she declares fraudulent in others; that she admits them unmolested to supply her enemy with means of resistance, when she declares, that confiscation is the penalty of neutral succour. Were the rule ever so just in itself, it certainly demands relaxation, when the belligerent partakes the profits, and connives at the breach. If its foundation be the unlawfulness of affording assistance to a distressed enemy, surely it ought not to be enforced, when that assistance is an authorized object of speculation with the distressing belligerent.
Your Memorialists heartily concur with their fellow-citizens in repelling with indignation the imputation of fraud, attached by Great Britain to our colonial commerce. They conceive it to be a fair, lawsul, and honorable traslic, cherished by the resources of our own country, independent of all foreign succour. Fraud may occasionally contaminate the transactions of all nations. But no one, who has estimated the exteni of our resources, or the respectability of our merchants, could for a moment believe them subservient to the fraudulent purposes of any nation. It is our pride to believe, that the American merchants, with very few exceptions, are as distinguished for good faith as any on earth. The imputation thrown on them is a masked pretence to repel the odium of vexatious injuries, and to excuse violations of law, which cannot be justified.
Your Memorialists are sorry, that other instances of hostile conduct have been manifested by Great Britain, less direct in their nature, but not less derogatory to our sovereignty, than those above enumerated. The impressment of our seamen, notwithstandiny clear proofs of citizenship, the violation of our jurisdiction by captures at the mouths of our harbours, and the insulting treatment of our ships on the ocean, are subjects worthy the serious consideration of our national councils, and will, we have no doubt, receive an early, prompt, and decisive attention.
Complaints also of a serious nature have arisen against other nations, on account of the conduct of piratical depredators, and the lawless plunderings by privateers on our coasts. From whatever authority these evils proceed, whether from the secret connivance of foreign powers, or the baneful macbinations of individuals, we trust, that our national honor will not long be unsupported by a national naval force.
These are the considerations, which your Memorialists beg leave to submit to the wisdom of the General Government. Though they have not suffered very greatly in their individual interests, they feel deeply impressed with the opinion, that the cause is national, and the feelings should be the same. They cherish the hope, that a sense of mutual interest and good faith will successfully terminate the present embarrassments. They wish for peace, for bonorable peace. They ask for no measure, but wliat justice approves, and reason enforces. They claim merely to pursue a fair cominerce with its ordinary privileges, and to support the independence of their country by the acquisitions of lawful industry. They wishi to take no part in the contests, which now convulse the world; but, acting with impartiality towards all nations, to reap the fruits of a just neutrality. If, however, conciliation cannot effect the purpose of justice, and an appeal to arms be the last and necessary protection of our honor, they feel no disposition to decline the cominon danger, or shrink from the common contribution.
Relying on the wisdom and firmness of the General Government in this behalf, they feel no hesitation to pledge their lives and property in support of the measures, which may be adopted to vindicate the public rights, and redress the public wrongs.
And, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Signed in behalf of the said Inhabitants by their authority,
OF THE MERCHANTS, AND OTHERS INTERESTED IN COMMERCE, IN SALEM MASS., AND ITS VICINITY, ADDRESSED TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES, JUNE, 1820, ON THE DISCONTINUANCE OF CREDITS ON REVENUE BONDS, THE ABOLITION OF DRAWBACKS, AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS ON COMMERCE PROPOSED IN CONGRESS.
The undersigned Memorialists, Merchants and Inbabitants of Salem, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and of the towns in its vicinity, beg leave most respectfully to represent:- That they have seen, with unseigned regret and surprise, some propositions recently brought forward in Congress, and others advocated by respectable portions of the community, which in their humble opinion are calculated seriously and certainly to injure, if not eventually to destroy, some of the most important branches of the comme ce and navigation of the United States.
The Memorialists have not the slightest intention of casting any imputation of unworthy motives upon those, from whoin on this occasion they feel themselves compelled to differ in the most decided manner. They are ready to admit, that many of those, wboare inclined to revive commercial probibitions and restrictions, and to change some of the fundamental rules of our financial policy, are governed by motives solely suggested by their own views of the national interests. They are free also to admit, that the manufacturing interests of the country deserve to receive the fostering care and patronage of the government. But, while they make these admissions, they also beg leave to suggest, that the interests of commerce are not less vital to the welfare and prosperity of the Union, than manufactures; and that it never can be a sound or sa se policy to build up the one upon the ruins of the other. Under a wise and enlightened revenue system, the commerce of our country has hitherto advanced with a rapidity and force, which have exceeded the inost sanguine expectations of its friends. This commerce has