Saturday, 16 June 2012

16th May 1812: The British Government suspends the Orders in Council

On Tuesday 16th June following a lengthy speech against the Orders in Council in the House of Commons by the Whig MP Henry Brougham, Lord Castlereagh announced that the government was suspending the Orders in Council with immediate effect.

The Leeds Mercury of the following Saturday broke the news to Yorkshire:
It is with unfeigned joy that we congratulate our readers on the most beneficial Victory which has been achieved during the present war—a victory over what may justly be considered as the most dangerous enemy this country ever had to contend with—THE ORDERS IN COUNCIL. Ministers, astounded at the wide-spreading ruin their favourite measure had produced, and which had been proved at the Bar of the House of Commons, with a clearness and cogency which rendered cavil and sophistry alike useless, feebly defended, and then abandoned the celebrated Orders, which their partizans of never ceased to extol as the glory of their administration. By this abandonment, they have acknowledged that the characteristic feature of their policy, with regard to America, has been erroneous, we ought to say mischievous and destructive. LORD CASTLEREAGH, indeed, to break the force of the fall of himself and colleagues, would not use the humiliating terms revoke or rescind, but has adopted the softer term, suspend; but it will be a suspension fatal to their existence. The present Cabinet will not dare to re-enact these ruinous Edicts, and it is impossible that any other Administration should have the folly to attempt it. Ministers having been thus compelled by the voice of a suffering People, to abandon the main object of their administration, it might fairly be presumed that they would, from mere shame, retire from public view, and leave the conciliation of America to Statesman who will not have so much to unsay before they can negotiate with any chance of success. It might, we say, be so presumed; but we do not expect it. They can abandon the Orders in Council; they can abandon, as a Cabinet question, their intolerant system towards Ireland; they can abandon all the principles of their former political life, and by such abandonment proclaim the superior wisdom of their adversaries; but their places they cannot abandon; or if they quit their grasp for a moment, all their intriguing and artifice are put in exercise to re-instate themselves in situations for which they have none of the requisite talents.

The concession made by Ministers at the close of the debate on Mr. Brougham's motion, was that the Orders in Council should be immediately suspended for a definite time, and that this circumstance should be communicated the American Government for the purpose of ascertaining whether she would abrogate her Non-Intercourse Act, and that both countries might apply to France to induce her to return to the agent system of war. It was also understood, that a notification to this effect was to appear in the next Gazette. It certainly would have been a more direct and satisfactory mode of accomplishing the business to have totally rescinded the Orders in Council in the first instance, rather than by using the term suspended, to contemplate the probability of their revival; but considering this word as merely used to break the fall of Ministers, we trust America will receive it in the same point of view, and that an amicable, and lasting adjustment of the differences between the two countries will not be retarded by a punctilious regard to words.

The country must fill themselves deeply indebted to that rising Statesman, Mr. BROUGHAM, for his indefatigable services, in exhibiting to the view of the Legislature, with such irresistible cogency, the ruinous consequences of these Orders in Council, [obscured] to that Gentleman and his zealous [obscured] in the Houses of Parliament they would be grateful to those Merchants and Manufacturers, who at their Country's call gave efficacy to Mr. Brougham's exertions, by their clear and satisfactory evidence, and crowned his patriotic labours with complete success. Without such evidence, this victory could not have been achieved, and in the face of such a body of facts, no Minister, we should think, will ever again dare to resort to this anti-commercial system. There is one observation stated in the reports of Mr. Rose's speech, which will astonish every man acquainted with the present situation of the Staple Manufacturer of this Country; that Gentleman is stated to have said, that “there was no evidence of distress in the West Riding of Yorkshire.” No evidence of distress in the West Riding! The man that could make such an assertion, could not have read or heard the evidence given by Mr. George Rawson, Mr. William Thompson, Mr. Joseph Walker, Mr. Christopher Lawson, or Mr. John Oxley, and a number of other witnesses! We do intreat our readers to peruse with attention the evidence of those gentlemen, than whom there is not amongst us more respectable and intelligent men, and then to say how far Mr. Rose is justified in the assertion that there is no evidence of distress in the West Riding of Yorkshire. And if that evidence of distress does not satisfy him, we beg to remind him, that in visits lately made through the town of Leeds, by persons whose duty it was to inquire diligently into the situation of the poor, out of a population of about 9000 families, of which this town consists, there were found 3500 families stood in need of the contributions of the benevolent, and that of those 3500 families, the average sum that each individual had to subsist upon, did not exceed 2s. 10d., a head, and at a time too when flour is from 5s. to 6s. a stone, and in a place too where the poor are in a better situation than perhaps any other manufacturing town in the county. Is not this evidence that there is distress in the West Riding.

There is also another evidence of the distressed situation of the West-riding, which has lately come to our knowledge, and which, as Mr. ROSE seems to be unacquainted with it, we will state for his information:—It is a fact, capable of being established by incontrovertible evidence, that there is not at present a country in the world accessible to British merchandize, where there is not in that place a stock of woollens exceeding two years consumption. We know this to be the case in the Brazils, at Buones Ayres, and Monte-Video, in Portugal, at Messina, at Gibraltar, and in Sicily; surely this will satisfy Mr. Rose other markets are wanted, and convince him that there is sufficient, and more than sufficient, evidence that the West-riding of Yorkshire abounds with distress.

But there is another point of much more importance than the assertion of Mr. Rose, and that is whether it will be prudent the British Merchants to ship goods to America during the suspension of the Orders in Council? This is a pinching question, and its answer must depend a good deal upon the views of the Exporter, which will of course be materially influenced by the Notice meant to be inserted in the London Gazette, of this evening. We think there is no doubt but the Law of Non-Intercourse will be withdrawn in America on its being made known that the repeal of the British Orders in Council, will take place in consequence. Indeed the repeal of the Orders in Council, will in effect repeal that law.

On the 18th June, the United States of America declared war on on Great Britain, although word would not reach the British Government until 41 days later. On the 23rd June, a new Government formally repealed the Orders in Council.

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