The Responsibility For The British Outrage

Washington National Intelligencer

July 10, 1807

We are pleased to observe the circumspection of the merchants. If they consult their own interests, or that of the country, they will for a time repress their spirit of adventure, and run as few risks as possible, until an explicit answer shall be given by the British Ministry. As yet it remains a point undetermined whether the late barbarous outrages have emanated directly from the British Cabinet, or are the acts exclusively of subordinate commanders. If they are directly authorized by the Cabinet, then we may calculate upon a scene of violence co-extensive with British power, and for another display of that perfidy so characteristic of its government. Every American vessel on the ocean will be seized and sent into some British port for adjudication, and the courts will take special care, if they do not forthwith proceed to condemnation, at any rate to keep the cases sub judice. Indeed, if the recent outages do not emanate from the government, it is difficult to say whether they will not, notwithstanding, seize what they may consider a favorable opportunity to wreak their vengeance on this country. We know the hostility of the greater part of those who compose the British administration to our principles, and they may be Quixotic enough to imagine themselves able to crush these principles, or seriously arrest our commercial growth. They may, therefore, under some hollow pretext, refuse that satisfaction which we demand, the result of which will be war. There is indeed no small color of truth in the suppostion that this outrage has flowed from the change in the British Ministry, connected with the fate the treaty has received from our government, and that without meaning or expecting war, they have virtually authorized aggressions on us, which they fancied we would tamely submit to; and that however astonished they may be with the manifestation they will soon receive of the temper of the nation, their pride may prevent them from retracting.

Everything is, and must for some time remain, uncertain. In the meantime it becomes our duty to husband all our strength. But little injury can accrue to the merchant from a suspension of his export business for a few months, compared with the incalculable evils that might befall him from its active prosecution. He is, therefore, under a double obligation to pursue this course, arising not only from a regard to his own interest, but likewise from a love of his country. In the day of danger it will want all its resources, and all its seamen. Were Congress in session, it is extremely probable that their first step would be the imposition of an embargo. What they would do, were they sitting, it is the interest and duty of the merchant to do himself. We have no doubt that the intelligence of this order of men may on this occasion, as it has on all former occasions, be relied on.

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