WHILE the charge of the Federalists that Madison was in league with France in making war against Great Britain was absurd, his relations to that power were nevertheless peculiar, and required at least an appearance of belief in her good faith towards the United States; and the consequence of this necessity soon put him in an extraordinary position.
The immediate basis for his demand for the repeal of the British orders in council was that the French decrees had been repealed. He was assured of their repeal again and again, yet there was evidence before his eyes that they were being enforced against American shipping. In 1811 Joel Barlow was sent as Minister to France. He had lived there for many years and his personal familiarity with French official life made him hope to unravel the entanglement into which the two countries had become involved; but no one could be said to meet Napoleon on even terms in a diplomatic contest, because his methods were without example and his moves could not be anticipated even by the imagination. When, in May, 1812, Barlow asked for the hundredth time for proof of the repeal of the decrees, the Due de Bassano, Minister for Foreign Affairs, put into his hands an imperial decree dated April 28, 1811, declaring the Berlin decree non-existent against American vessels after November 1, 1810. No one had ever seen this paper before, for the very good reason that it had only been written and signed a few days before Barlow saw it. What could Madison do in the face of such methods? Simultaneously with the production of this bogus decree came reports of the