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(except the omission of certain names therein, agreeably to the letter of 7th December, 1793, from Gov. Moultrie) on file in the office of the Department of State.
GEO. TAYLOR, jun. Chief Clerk. January 14, 1794.
FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TO CONGRESS.
JANUARY 16, 1794. I TRANSMIT for your information, certain intelligence lately received from Europe, as it relates to the subject of my past communications.
TRANSLATION. The Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to
the Republick of France, to M. Deforgues, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Sain-Port, October 1, 1793.
SIR,--I have the honour to send you herewith, the copies of two judgments, rendered with regard to the American yessel, the George. By the first, the tribunal in conforming itself to the treaty of 1778, declared her unlawful prize-but by the second, a part of the cargo is condemned, as hostile property; and the tribunal has founded its decision upon the decree of the 27th July. Captain Richard Stevens of the American vessel, the Hope, also complains very bitterly of a sentence rendered lately against a part of the cargo of this vessel, which is incontestably American property. This captain informs me, that the tribunal of St. Brieu, has founded its decision on the circumstance, that in the invoice, the owners of the vessel, had added their commission to the price of the articles therein comprised. A thing in use among merchants, who by this means, insuring the whole, they shelter from maritime danger, the price of their labour, as they do that of their merchandises. I do not cite, sir, this sentence in the form of a complaint, first, because I have not yet received an authentick copy of it, and above all, because I am persuaded that the superior tribunal, to whom an appeal must be made, will not fail to render justice.
I desire only to let you see, sir, how much discontent the execution of the decree of the 27th July, must excite.
Persuaded that the Convention wishes to maintain the closest connections between our two Republicks, I have given to our mioistry, the most positive assurances of it; but they will be contradicted by the injured persons, who doubtless will accuse the minister with supineness, who does not adopt the feelings of his fellow citizens ; and my efforts will fail of their effect, as soon as it can be imagined, that I do not render a faithful ac. count of the dispositions of the French Republick, from the want of intelligence or exactness. I request you, sir, to pardon an observation which regards the particular interests of France. The circumstances of the moment, prevent the fitting out of privateers, consequently it would cost it nothing, to cause the treaty to be observed with the greatest exactitude. Then the contrast which the Americans would make, between the conduct of France, and that of its enemies, could not but be favourable-but at present, on the contrary every time we complain of the conduct of the English, they shut our mouths by this decree of 27th July. Nothing is more embarrassing for our minister at London, and nothing can be more injurious to the French Republick, in the opinion of the neutral powers: I hope, sir, that you will observe in the freedom of the observations I have just made to you, the amicable and fraternal dispositions, which have dictated them. I am sure at least of con. forming to the views of the United States, in following my own inclination, to remove every thing that might change the good harmony, which exists between two nations, allied as well by the force of sentiment, as by that of treaties. I have the honour to be, &c.
Extracts of a Lotter from Mr. Morris to the Secretary of State,
dated October 10, 1793. I am very anxious that consuls and vice consuls should be appointed in all the ports. My countrymen are incessantly applying to me, from every quarter, about property taken from them. I am desired from abroad, to claim such property. I have decidedly refused to lend my name on such occasions ; be. Cause I am certain, that I should be thereupon represented as a party interested; and of course my representations against the proceedings, which are but too frequent, would be disregarded.
On the twentieth of August a deputation of four ship captains, chosen by their brethren of Bordeaux, called on me with a representation of the injustice they experienced in being prevented from sailing with their cargoes, &c.
The deputation, as is natural, had flattered themselves with immediate and ample redress. It was my duty to moderate their expectations and to explain the difficulties. Interest is often blind and seldom just. My moderation was ill suited to their wishes ; and my letter to the minister, of which a copy is enclosed, seemed to them rather an abandonment of their cause, than the prosecution of the only redress which appeared to me attainable, and in the only way by which it might be effected. I had cautioned them particularly not to ask too much; because they would thereby run the risk of not obtaining what they asked; or if they should obtain it, of seeing their hopes blasted in the bud, by a repeal of an indulgent decree.
A decree was obtained, and before it could be executed was repealed. Thus it has happened that they did mischief, with. out any benefit to themselves.
TRANSLATION. The Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to
the Republick of France, to M. Deforgues, Minister of Fo. reign Affairs. Paris, October 12, 1793.
Sir, I have the honour to send you herein enclosed, the copy of a letter, which has been addressed to me, by citizen Postic, a lawyer, residing at Morlaix. It appears, that in the proceedings of which he has given an account, there are extraordinary irregularities, and I think it my duty to inform you of them, as on the justice of tribunals often depends the salvation, and always the prosperity of a state.
I request you at the same time, sir, to permit me to make two general observations on the whole of this business; one of which applies to the organization, and the other to the proceedings of the commercial tribunals. The referring of questions on sea prizes, to these tribunals, appears to me dangerous, since they involve the interpretation of the treaties, and the application of the law of nations : consequently of peace and of war. Now we may be permitted to entertain some doubt as to the knowledge of the judges, and we ought besides to fear, lest they may be interested, as owners of privateers, in the questions wbich are submitted to them.
But whatever may be the organization of the tribunals, it appears to me essential, sir, that in their proceedings they should receive all the claims which may be made to them ; that they should even invite without waiting for the authority of the persons interested, who are often at the distance of one thousand leagues. The jurisdiction of the tribunals within whose cognizance are the questions of prize, is in rem. They take possession of the thing, and by that means render themselves responsible for it. Now as the tribunals, which is the depository of the thing, ought not to dispossess themselves of it, without a formal authoritative act of the true proprietor, it is their duty, not only to adniit, but also to seek proofs, which may establish to whom the property truly belongs. This is a double duty towards the neutral proprietor, and towards their own nation; for every government which permits its citizens to fit out privateers, arms with the destructive sword of war, bands which are interested to extend its ravages, and renders itself responsible for the abuses, which result from so dangerous a delegation of sovereignty. For the purpose of repressing them, the admiralty tribunals have been established throughout the different nations of Europe. In these tribunals, the government furnishes the means of information, by the facility with which it
admits therein every species of claim. It preseryes, by appeals, the right of deciding in the last resort on the contests which therein arise ; and it gives the necessary time to enlighten its conscience on thorny questions, before the pronouncing of a sentence, which might extend or prolong the horrours of war.
These, sir, are the reflections which experience has dictated to me. They daily make on me a more lively impression on account of the claims addressed to me by my countrymen, of which I have communicated to you but a very small part. I always send to the tribunals the injured persons, by giving them the most positive assurances that they will there obtain complete and prompt justice. I have the honour to be, &c.
TRANSLATION, Extract of a Letter from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, te
Mr. Morris, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of Anterica, to the Republick of France, dated Paris, October 14, 1793, 2d year of ihe French Republick.
Tue cxtreme rigour, with which the English and the other belligerent powers, treat all the neutral vessels destined for France, has put the Republick to the painful necessity of arresting by way of reprisal, in such vessels the provisions belonging to its enemies. . This severe measure, clearly explained in the decree of the 9th of May, of which I enclose you a copy, is the result of the most imperious circumstances-It will continue only as long as our enemies employ against us, means disapproved by the laws of humanity, and by those of war. In casting your eye on this law, you can hardly, sir, avoid the conviction, that it was necessary and just; that the Republick could no longer without inattention to itself, preserve tolerable decency towards its implacable and ferocious enemies, and that the system of depriving them of foreign produce, was also to dissipate its means of offence.
In comparing this law with the declarations made by the British government, at Stockholm, Copenhagen, Florence, and probably at Philadelphia ; you will observe an extreme difference, between our manner of thinking and that of our enemies, You will see on the one hand, the firm determination of destroy. ing several millions of victims, merely to satisfy a spirit of vengeance or of ambition, and on the other, the desire of repelling unjust aggressions by severe laws, and a regret at being reduced to ihat extremity.
Here then, sir, in two words is the situation in which the Re. publick stands. Its enemies have openly usurped the right of seizing, all the provisions which are destined to it, and even all the Frenchimen found on board of neutral vessels. But it seems that France, attacked on all sides, abandoned to its own strength, without allies, without foreign succour, should confine herself scrupulously to the maxims of the law of nations, so cruelly violated by her enemies. Hence it would result that the neutrality of several powers would be partial, that it would operate only in favour of our enemies, whose commerce would be peaceably carried on under the shelter of a borrowed flag, while ours could not, under any flag whatever.
The law of the 9th of May, is conditional, whilst the declarations of the combined powers are positive. It is in their power to put a period to the execution of this law, by permitting neutral vessels, to communicate freely with France.
These observations, sir, which you are too just not to appre. ciate, apply to the greater part of the claims, which you have ad. dressed to me for some time. I have done with respect to several of them, all that depended on me, in order to obtain in favour of your countrymen, an exception of the general measures, adopted with regard to neutral nations. I have used among others, all the means with which your letters furnished me, to have restored the ship Laurens ; but I have met with insurmountable obstacles, in the established laws, and in the opinion of the commercial tribunal of Havre. The tribunal has neglected nothing to render justice to the owners of this vessel. It has consented among other things, to have translated 361 letters, merely to prove in the most authentick manner, the property of the cargo. The interested have besides avowed themselves, that they had neglected an essential formality required by our laws.
You must be satisfied, sir, with the manner in which the request, presented by the American captains, from Bordeaux, has been received. This fact, and several others of the same kind, which could not escape your attention, must have convinced you, that when the particular circumstances of the Republick, permitted the administration to favour your countrymen, it was eager to give to them, testimonies of the desire which it always has had, of bringing nearer and nearer the citizens, and the interests of the two countries.
We hope, that the government of the United States, will attribute to their true cause, the abuses of which you complain, as well as other violations of which our cruisers may l'ender themselves guilty, in the course of the present war. It must perceive how difficult it is, to contain within just limits, the indig. nation of our marines, and in general of all the French patriots, against a people who speaks the same language, and having the same habits, as the free Americans. The difficulty of dislinguishing our allies from our enemies, has often been the cause of offences, committed on board your vessels; all that the administration could do, is to order indemnification to those who have suffered, and to punish the guilty.
I enclose herein, several copies of the navigation act, decreed by the representatives of the people. I request you to make the