IN the year 1811 American relations with both France and England were of the gravest character. The two powers, engaged in the life-and-death struggle, were seizing and destroying everything that came in their way. There was scarcely a right of neutrals they had not outraged. England had opened the attack by issuing her "Orders in Council," declaring all French ports and rivers from the Elbe in Germany to Brest in France in a state of blockade, and Bonaparte had retaliated by his famous "Berlin Decree," declaring the British Islands blockaded, and that all intercourse with them by neutral vessels must cease -- a decree, it may be said, directly contrary to the terms of the treaty then existing between the United States and France.
Seizure of American vessels in the English trade by French cruisers soon followed, and at the same time vigorous restrictions were placed on American commerce in French ports.
American products were heavily taxed. American vessels were compelled to receive for return cargoes certain specified goods, chiefly silks: they were subject to tedious investigations in unusual forms, and, when seized, their release could be obtained, if at all, only after great expense and delay. The repeated protests of the American minister against these enormities were disregarded. It seemed that to protect her commerce the young nation must take up the gage thrown down by the conqueror of Europe. Yet it was resolved by Madison and his advisers to make one last attempt at negotiation: it was also clearly seen that the success of the mission must depend