History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 5

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII.
GREAT BRITAIN MAKES WAE ON THE NETHERLANDS.
1780–1781.

THE successor of Lord “Weymouth was Lord Stormont, the late British ambassador at Paris. He had an unbounded confidence in the spirit and resources of his country; but this confidence took the worst forms of haughty blindness to moral distinctions in dealing with foreign powers. To complaints by the Dutch of the outrage on their flag, he answered by interpreting treaties contrary to their plain meaning, and then by saying: “We are determined to persist in the line of conduct we have taken, be the consequences what they may.”

The British ministry sent the case of the Dutch merchant vessels that had been carried into Portsmouth to the court of admiralty, where Sir James Mariott, the judge, thus laid down the law: “It imports little whether the blockade be made across the narrows at Dover or off the harbor at Brest or L’Orient. If you are taken, you are blocked. Great Britain, by her insular position, blocks naturally all the ports of Spain and France. She has a right to avail herself of this position as a gift of Providence.” Swayed by the more weighty members of the republic, the stadholder addressed a representation to the empress of Russia for concert in the defence of neutral flags. Before it was received at Petersburg, Prince Galitzin, the Russian envoy at the Hague, on the third of April 1780, invited the states-general to a union for the protection of neutral trade and navigation. “The same invitation,” said the envoy, “has been made to the courts of Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Lisbon, in order that by the joint endeavors of

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