« PreviousContinue »
dispositions of them known to the government of the United States. It will there find the basis of a system connecting more and more the interests of the two nations.
DEFORGUES. P.S. I enclose herein, sir, an arret of the committee of publick safety, which fulfils in part, the object proposed in your letter of the 13th of this month. I shall have the honour of communicating to you, the measures which shall be taken in the sequel.
TRANSLATION. The Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America
to the Republick of France, to Monsieur Deforgues, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Paris, October 19, 1793.
SIR,—The attention which several pressing affairs required, made it impossible for me sooner to answer the letter which you did me the honour of writing to me on the 14th. I have examined, with respectful care, the decree of the 9th of May, emanating from the conduct of your enemies, and supported by some reasons to which you have given their greatest lustre. It is possible, sir, that the difference of our position leads us to see the same object in a different manner. But allhough I can. not be of your opinion, I do not intend farther to discuss the considerations which have produced the decision of the French government. I confine myself to the rendering of a faithful account of it to the government of the United States, and I am persuaded that in considering them, liberal friendship will put in the balance the difficulties of a revolution, and of a war without example. I ought, however, to observe to you, sir, that the question does not appear to me to turn on the law of nations, but on an exception to that law, by the stipulations of a treaty. This trealy, in derogating from this law, in favour of merchandises of your enemies found in our vessels, has derogated, in like manner, from it, to the prejudice of our merchandises found in the vessels of your enemies. We have seen at Phila. delphia the publick sale of a cargo, the property of one of our citizens, taken by a French privateer on board an English vessel. All opposition was of no avail, because, according to the constitution, our treaties are the supreme law of the land. You will agree, sir, that it is hard for my fellow citizens not to have the advantage either of the treaty or of the law of nations-to lose their merchandises by the treaty, and not to be able to compensate themselves for it, under the protection of this same treaty, by the freight of enemy merchandises. In comparing the facts of the same epoch, you will be amazed on seeing what passed at Paris and at Philadelphia. Your good sense will lead you to anticipate the claims of our merchants, and the insinuations of our enemies.
The foregoing are true translations and copies of the origi. nals on file in the office of the department of state.
GEO. TAYLOR, JUN. Chief Clerka January 16, 1794.
NATIONAL CONVENTIOX. Report upon the Navigation Act, made in the name of the Com- .
mittee of Publick Safety. By B. Barrere. With two Decrees passed in the Session of the 21st September, the 2d year of the French Republick, one and indivisible.
CITIZENS, It was on the 21st September, 1792, that the Convention proclaimed the liberty of France, or rather the liberty of Europe.
It is on the same day, the 21st September, 1793, that the Convention should proclaim the liberty of commerce, or rather the liberty of the seas.
It is not sufficient for you to have founded the political re. publick-it remains for you to found the commercial republick.
narchical revolution; it bears the impression of the despot who created it. The French navigation act will be decreed in the midst of a democratick revolution; it will bear the impression of liberty and equality, which produced it.
If the French nation had resolved to give itself a navigation act, or to destroy the treaty of commerce of 1787, England would have declared against her a terrible war.
England has put herself at the head of a coalition of tyrants, to destroy our liberty; and from that moment France has ac. quired the right of supporting, with her cannon and her bayonet, the abolition of the treaty of commerce, and the establishment of a navigation act.
These advantages are the first fruits of this war; the establish. ment of liberty, the prosperity of the Republick, and the reani. mation of commerce, will be the result of it.
The treaty of commerce being destroyed by a decree, will create an enormous barrier in the channel between France and Great Britain. Nothing then remains, but to knock down the intermediate obstacles created by England, between France and the other powers.
The following are our means :
For a century and a half, a navigation act, bearing the stamp of the soul of the usurper, Cromwell, has established and se
cured the maritime tyranny and commercial prosperity of England.
For a century and a half, the famous British navigation act, founded without regard to the rights and interests of nations, offers a series of laws injurious and invasive of the property of every people.
The law writers of Europe had proclaimed this truth; the policy of France had not suspected it. The constituent assembly, more occupied in destroying, than in creating, neither thought of the French Republick nor of the liberty of the seas. A ridiculous predilection for England, a ruinous and disgraceful commercial treaty, purchased from the ministers of Capet, had enslaved us. The political views of the cabinet of London, with regard to us, prevailed entirely in the work shops of manufacturers and in the counting houses of our merchants. In the commissioners of the customs, the artists in metallurgy, the dealers in the colonial products, and the carriers of the East India stuffs—behold our real masters.
The coasting trade, that active school of our scamen, that second basis of our navigation, that source of riches to HolJand, far from being inhibited to foreigners, as is the case in England, has been carried on by foreigners.
The navigation of the colonies, infinite in its detail, immense by the extent which it gives to our commerce, this navigation, equally interesting to the husbandman and the artist, the manufacturer and the seaman, the rich and the poor-The navigation of the colonies, which enlivens our sea ports, and gives motion to all the works of industry, was participated in by for
eigners, and we were calm spectators. · The national marine, which grows out of ship building and the fishery, has been destroyed by the decree regarding foreiga vessels as merchandise, and allowing them to be purchased; it has been destroyed; by the discouragement of the fishery among us, and weakened for the want of succour, of premiums, and of the m.cans which might triple our equipments for the fishery, and form of it a species of secondary agriculture, as more than 300 vessels might be employed each year, and replace the three millions of salted fish, which fraud or foreign commerce annually introduce into France,
Finally, foreigners, more especially the English, have made themselves masters of our navigation, with capitals known by the name of francisations simulées (operations consisting in covering with the French flag, and enriching with French premiums, the capitals and fortunes of the English) because we have neglected to establish, ourselves, the English law, which acknowledges and admits to the advantages of navigation only vessels built and owned within the nation.
Let us, in fine, strike at the francisations simulées. We have laid an embargo on the English vessels found in our ports at the commencement of the war-Here is an embargo more just and more useful to the prosperity of France it is the completion of the navigation act-it is the seizing of and confiscating to the benefit of the republick, all vessels belonging to the English, under a French flag, that is to say, those which are purchased and built with English capitals, and with a view to defraud us of our premiums and of our duties, under the name of a French merchant-of a French captain.
Our cruisers are destined to attack the English flag on the seas, and yet our avarice lends the French flag to the navigation and commerce of England.
Despotism itself had felt this injury of our maritime commerce. It had prohibited it at several epochs; but these numerous laws were not executed, because they allowed no reward to the informer of these simulations of capitals. It is necessary to give to the informer, a part of the value of the foreign capitals, employed in the francisations simulées in order to obtain success to this measure, and to carry into execution our prohibitory laws on this subject. This has been objected to, as an immoral measure. No, there is no immorality in ru. ining those who starve us, who ruin us, those who wish to tear from us our liberty, and to devour the fruits of our brilliant revolution.
The constituent assembly bequeathed to the first legislature too long a project of a navigation act. This legacy could not be improved by a legislative assembly more occupied in de. molishing the throne of the Capet family, than in attacking the sceptre of the family of Hanover. But the time for this last is arrived.
We are at length, at the period of being able to proclaim the liberty of the seas, after having proclaimed that of men, and of the country.
Already, on the 29th of last May, the committee of publick safety in their report presented to you the necessity of publishing a French navigation act, as a means of regenerating our navigation, of reviving our commerce, encouraging ship building, of increasing the fishery, of doubling our carrying trade, by destroying the intermediate freights, and the inter. ference of all indirect navigation in the maritime transportation of the commodities we exchange with foreign nations.
This proposition was highly applauded. You were then sen. sible, that after having formed the political constitution, and after having prepared the moral constitution, by publick education, you should still form the maritime and commercial constitution, by a navigation act.
The commercial and marine committee presented to you a project of it, through Citizen Marec, the 3d of July last; it was scarcely discussed: an adjournment was the result of two
discourses founded upon objections, of the frivolity of which the authors themselves have been sensible. It was feared, at that epoch, that the navigation act would injure the commer. cial relations with the neutral powers, as if the time of war and of neutrality did not form an inevitable and a rigbtful ex. ception; as if Sweden had not, in the regulations of her cus. toms, a sort of navigation act, by her rates of duties on merchandises imported into Sweden, in foreign vessels; as if the French act of navigation were not a new commercial army opposed to the commercial army of England, for the benefit of other navigating nations ; finally, as if all other governments, all nations, were not strongly interested in the downfal of the English navigation act, and in the repossession of the natural rights of commerce and navigation, by every people in Europe. Let us then this day proclaim a law, securing those equal rights on the seas to which the nations with whom we are at peace are entitled.
Americans, Swedes, Danes, Genoese, Venitians, all you who have had the wise and useful firmness of resisting the perfi. dious insinuations, and the insolent threats of the English, and of our other enemies, you who have not wished to interrupt your commercial relations with a free people, receive this solemn act of French gratitude. Our enemies of Great Britain, and of the Dutch marshes, shall be no longer the agents, or rather the masters of our commerce with you. Here is the decree so much desired for the exclusion of intermediate navigators. This solemn navigation act is about being published in all the ports of France, and sent to the friendly or neutral powers ; and this act of commercial independence pronounced by the French republicans, shall neither be revoked or destroyed by our enemies, till they have beaten down the tri-coloured flag now waving above this enclosure on the sum. mit of the national hall. This is saying enough on what shall be the duration of the navigaiion act.
Before you are presented with the rapid picture of the immense advantages of the navigation act, and its influence on the national prosperity, I should show you the terrible stroke it will give to the maritime empire usurped by Great Britain; the still more terrible stroke it must give to her industry, her commerce, her navigation, her fabricks, her manufactures, at the same time that it will awaken other nations-call forth other governments to repossess themselves of their advantages, and take again on the tempestuous element and of commerce, the imprescriptible rights which genius, the compass, and their topographical situation have assigned them.
Legislators, this is not a reprisal, it is not a hostile measure, it is not an exercise of the right of war that I propose; it is a declaration of the rights of nations, it is the restitution of a natural inheritance, usurped by ambilious islanders.