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Erskine, David Montague, Baron, 1776-

diplomatist; born in England in 1776; soon after 1806 was sent to the United States as British envoy. He was on duty in Washington at the time of Madison's accession to the Presidency. He found the new President so exceedingly anxious for peace and good feeling between the two countries that he had written to Canning, the British minister, such letters on the subject that he was instructed to propose to the Americans a reciprocal repeal of all the prohibitory laws upon certain conditions. Those conditions were so partial towards Great Britain, requiring the Americans to submit to the rule of 1756, that they were rejected. Very soon, however, arrangements were made by which, upon the Orders in Council being repealed, the President should issue a proclamation declaring a restoration of commercial intercourse with Great Britain, but leaving all restrictive laws as against France in full force. Mr. Erskine also offered reparation for the insult and injury in the case of the Chesapeake (q. v.), and also assured the government of the United States that Great Britain would immediately send over an envoy extraordinary, vested with power to conclude a treaty that should settle all points of dispute between the two governments. This arrangement was completed April 18, 1809. The next day the Secretary of State received a note from Erskine, saying he was authorized to declare that his Majesty's Orders in Council of January and November, 1807, would be withdrawn on June 10 next ensuing. On the same day (April 19) the President issued a proclamation declaring that trade with Great Britain might be resumed after June 10. This proclamation gave great joy in the United States. Partisan strife was hushed, and the President was toasted and feasted by leading Federalists, as a Washingtonian worthy of all confidence. In the House of Representatives, John Randolph, who lauded England for her magnanimity, offered (May 3, 1809) a resolution which declared “that the promptitude and frankness with which the President of the United States has met the overtures of the government of Great Britain towards a restoration of harmony and freer commercial intercourse between the two nations meet the approval of this House.” The joy was of brief duration. Mr. Erskine was soon afterwards compelled to communicate to the President (July 31) that his government had refused to sanction his arrangement, ostensibly because the minister had exceeded his instructions, and was not authorized to make any such arrangement. Mr. Erskine was recalled. The true reason for the rejection by the British authorities of the arrangement made by Erskine probably was, that, counting upon the fatal effects of sectional strife in the Union, already so rampant in some places, the British government was encouraged to believe that the bond of union would be so weakened that a scheme then perfecting by the British ministry for destroying that Union would be successful. England having spurned the olive-branch so confidingly offered, the President of the United States issued another proclamation (Aug. 9, 1809), declaring the [262] nonintercourse act to be again in full force in regard to Great Britain.

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