Economic Annals of the Nineteenth Century

By William Smart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
1807. THE ORDERS IN COUNCIL

IN November of 1806, as we saw, Napoleon's Berlin Decree established a ring fence, practically round Europe, to prevent the entrance of British persons, British ships, and British goods, and another ring fence of blockade round the British Isles to prevent all ships, neutral or otherwise, from supplying them with goods. Possibly the most effectual policy for England would have been to treat the threat with contempt, especially as France had neither the power, nor, as it appeared, the intention to carry out the blockade.1 By such a policy, she would at least have avoided all the subsequent trouble with neutral nations, and ranged them on her side.

Berlin Decree.

But this was almost more than could be expected in the circumstances. France, by the assistance of neutrals, was enjoying as great advantages of trade as England had with her victorious navy. Neutral ships were bringing France all that she required, and England, all the time that she could not attack her enemy on land, seemed to be getting no advantage from her unchallenged supremacy at sea.

Accordingly, the British Government decided to retaliate, and it did so by an Order in Council of 7th January, 1807.2 The justification is stated in the preamble. France had violated the usages of war by prohibiting the commerce of all neutral nations with the British dominions, preventing such nations from trading with any other country in articles the growth, produce, or manu-

The first "mild retaliation."

____________________
1
America, said Grenville, had received the most satisfactory assurances from the French Government that its blockading decree would not be acted upon against American shipping ( Hansard, x. 25).
2
The full text is given in Hansard, x. 120; the substance in the Annual Register, 671. For the,position and practice of neutrals before the Orders, see Levi, History of British Commerce, 105.

-154-

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