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CHAPTER XV.

FROM WASHINGTON TO MADISON.

THIRTY years of peace succeeded the War of Independence. There were, indeed, passing troubles with the Indians, ending always in the sharp chastisement of those disagreeable savages. There was an expedition against Tripoli, to avenge certain indignities which the barbarians of that region had offered to American shipping. There was a misunderstanding with the French Directory, which was carried to a somewhat perilous extreme. A desperate fight took place between a French frigate and an American frigate, resulting in the surrender of the former. But these trivial agitations did not disturb the profound tranquillity of the nation, or hinder its progress in that career of prosperity on which it had now entered.

In 1797, General Washington having declined to be a candidate for President, John Adams was chosen his successor, and Thomas Jefferson was elected Vice-President. During the administration of Mr. Adams, the city of Washington became the seat of government. Congress had hitherto met in the city of Philadelphia. In 1801 Thomas Jefferson was elected President and Aaron Burr VicePresident. Mr. Jefferson continued in office eight years. He was succeeded by James Madison in 1809.

In 1806 England gave out a decree announcing that all the coasts of France and her allies were in a state of blockade, and that any vessels attempting to trade with the

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blockaded countries were liable to seizure. At that time nearly all the continent was in alliance with France. Napoleon replied by declaring the British Islands in a state of blockade. These decrees closed Europe against American vessels. Many captures were made, especially by English cruisers. American merchants suffered grievous losses, and loudly expressed their just wrath against the wicked laws which wrought them so much evil.

There was another question out of which mischief arose. England has always maintained that any person who has once been her subject can never cease to be so. remove to another country. He may become the citizen of another State. English law recognizes no such transaction. England claims that the man is still an English subject, entitled to the advantages of that relation, and bound by its obligations. America, on the other hand, asserted that men could lay down their original citizenship and assume another, could transfer their allegiance, could relinquish the privileges and absolve themselves from the obligations which they inherited. The Englishmen who settled on her soil were regarded by her as American citizens, and as nothing else.

Circumstances arose which bestowed dangerous importance upon these conflicting doctrines. England at that time obtained sailors by impressment; that is to say, she seized men who were engaged on board merchant vessels, and compelled them to serve on board her ships-of-war. It was a process second only to the slave-trade in its iniquity. The service to which men were thus introduced could not but be hateful. There was a copious desertion, as opportunity offered, and America was the natural refuge. English ships-of-war claimed the right to search American vessels for men who had deserted ; and also for men who, as born English subjects, were liable to be impressed. It

1806.

The English Right of Search.

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may well be believed that this right was not always exercised with a strict regard to justice. It was not always easy to distinguish an Englishman from an American. Perhaps the English captains were not very scrupulous as to the evidence on which they acted. The Americans

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asserted that six thousand men, on whom England had no shadow of claim, were ruthlessly carried off to fight under a flag they hated; the English Government admitted the charge to the extent of sixteen hundred men. The American people vehemently resented the intolerable pretension

of England. Occasionally an American ship resisted it, and blood was freely shed.

Congress prohibited commerce with the European Powers which had disregarded her rights on the sea. Commerce was interrupted, and the grievance was not abated. At length Congress ended suspense by passing a bill which declared war against Great Britain.

When war was declared, England possessed one thousand ships-of-war, and America possessed twenty. Their land forces were in like proportion. England had nearly a million of men under arms. America had an army reckoned at twenty-four thousand, many of them imperfectly disciplined, and not yet to be relied upon in the field. Her treasury was empty. She was sadly wanting in officers of experience. She had declared war, but it was diffi

cult to see what she could do in the way of giving effect to : her hostile purposes.

But she held to these purposes with unfaltering tenacity. Four days after Congress had resolved to fight, England repealed those blockading decrees, which had so justly offended the Americans. There remained now only the question of the right of search. The British Minister at Washington proposed that an attempt should be made to settle peaceably this sole remaining ground of quarrel. The proposal was declined.

The first efforts of the Americans were signally unsuccessful. They attacked Canada with an army of two thousand five hundred men. But this force had scarcely got upon Canadian ground when it was driven back. It was besieged in Fort Detroit by an inferior British army and forced to surrender. The unfortunate General Hull, who commanded, was brought to trial by his angry countrymen and sentenced to be shot. He was pardoned, however, in consideration of former services.

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