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bue, is a communication kept up between the French and English ports of the channel for the transportation of passengers, letters, and perhaps even coin.
While I transinit you these details, I cannot avoid informing you complaints of another kind, which have been made by French seamen, returned from the English prisons ; and who, destitute, in consequence of a tedious imprisonment, of all means of subsistence, have been obliged to pay these same captains from two to five guineas for a passage from Dover to Calais. Such conduct adds to the suspicion of an understanding with our enemies, the certainty of a base cupidity, which asks a ransom from patriotism, and speculates upon inisfortune.
You must be sensible, citizen, that the character of neutrality, which tenders a nation respectable, in our view, ought not to serve as an Ægis to private designs, nor to shut our eyes upon those measures which may commit the general welfare and safety of the Republic ; it is therefore urgent, that you should co-operate in unveiling the indi. viduals who usurp the American colors in order to betray our mutual interests; and it is in the name of that friendship which unites two free nations, that I now wish to induce you to secure the co-operation 'of men, clothed with your confidence, in our ports, to prevent such monstrous abuses. Your well known character is a guarantee, that you will second with alacrity the adoption of measures which, without wounding the sacred rights of hospitality, may frustrate the intrigues of individuals, who, under the cloak of that title, and through the means of conformity of manners, habits, language, and customs, receive, with impunity, from the treasures of England, means of corruption, a thou. sand times more dangerous to us than the chance of battles.
I submit with confidence to your wisdom the means which would appear to me proper to attain this end.
You could, citizen, direct the consuls of the United States, to invite every captain of an American vessel not to land either men or goods, when arriving in our ports, without first calling on the maritime agent to communicate to him the intention of his voyage; the nature and quantity of the merchandise on board his vessel, and their destination ; where shipped, and the number of his passengers.
Each captain might receive, from you, or from the consular agents of your nation, the order to exhibit, upon demand, his journal and other sca-papers.
From the nature of the facts I have laid before you, would you think, citizen, that there would be any inconvenience, that the maritime agent, or an agent of administration by him delegated, should be authorized to go on board in order to ascertain the faithfulness of the declarations, if they give room for well founded suspicions ? And would you not say, in case their inaccuracy should be proved, that it would be proper to keep the crew and passengers on board until a decision from the Committee of Public Safety be liad? You must be sensible, that even in these cases, which I delight in believing would be very rare, I should, on my part, hasten to cause to be furnished every necessary succor and facility; and the indemnity which might be due, in case of the definitive admission of the vessels into our ports, would be. sides be settled.
At all events, you will no doubt deem it proper not to suffer the landing of the passengers calling themselves citizens of the United States, until their title to that citizenship be legally ascertained by the consuls of your nation.
I beg you, citizen, to weigh these ideas, and to transmit me yours on the preventive means to be used, to avoid the repetition of the acts of which I have presented you a picture.
For this pur
Mr. Monroe to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, dated Paris,
March 15th, 1796. I was lately honored with your note of the 19th Ventose, (March 9th) objecting to several of the measures of our Government, that have occurred in the course of the present war, and to which I
presume I shall herein render you a satisfactory answer. pose, I shall pursue in reply the order you have observed in stating those objections, and, according to the light I have on the subject, give to each the answer it requires.
These objections are comprised under three distinct heads, a summary of which I will first expose, that my reply to each may be bet. ter understood.
First. Your first complaint is, that we have failed to execute our treaties with you, and in the following respects :
1. By submitting to our tribunal the cognizance of prizes brought into our ports by your privateers. 2. By admitting Euglish vessels of war into our ports, against the stipulation of the 17th article of our treaty of commerce. even after such vessels had taken prizes from you, and, in some cases, with their prizes. 3. By omitting to execute the consular convention in two of its most important clauses ; having failed to provide, as you suggest, suitable means for carrying those clauses into effect; the first of which secures to your consuls within the United States, the exclusive jurisdiction of all controver. sies between French citizens; and the second, the right to pursue, and recover, all mariners who desert from your vessels. 4. By suffering, in the port of Philadelphia, the arrestation of the Captain of the Corvette Cassius, for an act committed by him on the high sea, and which you say is contrary to the 19th article of the treaty of commerce, which stipulates, that the commandants of public and private vessels, shall not be detained in any manner; and the rights of nations, which put such officers under the protection of their respective flags: and, by likewise suffering the arrestation of that Corvette, though armed at Cape Francois, upon the pretext that she was armed in the United States.
Second. Your second complaint states, that an outrage, which was made to this Republic, in the person of its Minister, the citizen Fauchet, by an English vessel, (the African) in concert with an English consul ; in arresting, within the jurisdiction of the United States, the packet-boat, in which he had embarked, searching his trunks, and, afterwards, remaining within the waters of those States for near month, to watch the movements of the Frigate in which he finally sailed, was left unpunished; since you urge, that the measures which were taken by our Government, in regard to that vessel and the consul, were not taken in a suitable time to remedy the evil, and were produced by a subsequent outrage, and of a very different kind.
Third. Your third and last complaint applies to our late treaty with England ; which, you say, not only sacrifices, in favor of that Power, our treaty with France, but departs from that line of impartiality, which, as a neutral nation, we were bound to observe. Particular exemplifications are given of this charge, in your note, and which I shall particularly notice, when I come to reply to it.
This is a summary of your complaints, and to each of which I will now give a precise, and, I flatter myself, a satisfactory answer.
First. Of the inexecution of our treaties with this Republic, and of the first example given of it:
The submission to our tribunals of the cognizance of prizes “ brought into our ports by your privateers."
Permit me, in reply to this charge, to ask whether you insist, as a general principle, that our tribunals are inhibited the right of taking cognizance of the validity of your prizes, in all cases; or, are there exceptions to it? As a general principle, without exception, I think it cannot be insisted on ; because examples may be given, under it, of possible cases, which prove it cannot be so construed and executed, without an encroachment upon the inherent and unalienable rights of sovereignty in both nations, which neither intended to make, nor does the treaty warrant. Suppose, for instance, a prize was taken within OUR jurisdiction, not upon the high seas, nor even at the entrance or mouths of those great rivers and bays, which penetrate and fertilize our country, but actually in the interior, and at the wharf of some one of our cities- Is this a case over which our tribunals, or some other branch of our Government, have no right to take cognizance ? Do you conceive that the true import of the treaty imposes upon us, and likewise imposes upon you in turn, the obligation thus to abandon, as a theatre of warfare, in which you bear no part, the interior police of your country? Can it be done consistently with the dignity or the rights of sovereignty ? Or, suppose the privateer which took the prize, and led it into port, was fitted out within the United States, the act being unauthorized by treaty-could we tolerate this, and refuse the liberty to the other nation at war, without departing from that line of neutrality we ought to observe? You well know that those rights which are secured by treaties, form the only preference in a neutral port, which a neutral nation can give to either of the parties at war; and if these are transcended, that the nation so acting makes
itself a party to the war; and in consequence, merits to be considered and treated as such. These examples prove that there are some exceptions to the general principle; and, perhaps, there are others which do not occur to me at present. Are then the cases in question, and which forms the basis of your complaint, within the scale of these exceptions? If they are, and I presume they are, I am persuaded you will concur with me in the opinion, that the complaint is unfounded; and that we have only done our duty; a duty we were bound to perform, as well from a respect to our rights as a sovereign and free people, as to the integrity of our character ; being a neutral party in the present war.
You will observe that I admit the principle, if a prize was taken upon the ligh sea, by a privateer fitted out within the Republic, or its dominions; that in such case our courts have no right to take cognizance of its validity. But is any case of this kind alleged ? I presume none is or can be shewn.
2. The second article in this charge, of failing to execute our treaties with this Republic, states, that, in contravention with the 17th article of the treaty of Commerce, we have admitted British vessels into our ports; even such as have taken prizes from you, and in some cases, with their prizes. The article referred to stipulates the right for your vessels of war and privateers, to enter our ports with their prizes; and inhibits that right to your enemies. It does not stipulate that the vessels of war belonging to your enemies shall not enter; but simply that they shall not enter with their prizes. This latter act, therefore, is, I presume, the subject of your complaint. Here, too, it only stipulates that in case such vessels enter your or our ports, proper measures shall be taken to compel them to retire, as soon as possible. Whether you were rightly informed with respect to the fact, is a point upon which I cannot decide, as I know nothing about it. Our coast is extensive, our harbors numerous, and the distress of the weather may have forced them in. Or they may have entered wantonly, and in contempt of the authority of the Government. Many outrages have been committed upon us, by that nation in the course of the present war, and this may likewise be of the catalogue. But I will venture to affirm that no countenance was given by our Govern. ment to those vessels, whilst they were there ; and that all suitable means were taken to compel them to retire, and without delay. You know we have no fleet, and how difficult it is, without one, to execute a stipulation of this kind, with that promptitude which your agents in our country, ardent in your cause, and faithful to your interest, might expect
3. The third article, under this head states, that we have omitted to execute the Consular Convention, in two of its most important elauses; the first of which secures to the Consuls of each, in the ports of the other, the exclusive jurisdiction of controversies between their own citizens; and the second of which, gives to the Consuls a right to recover such mariners as desert from the vessels of their respective mations
Upon the first point, the supposed incompetency of the law provided, on our part, to execute the judgments of your Consuls within our jurisdiction. I can only say, that, as no particular defect is stated, so no precise answer can be given to the objection. And, upon the second, which states, that the Judges charged by our laws to issue warrants for arresting such of your mariners as desert from their vessels, have latterly required, and against the spirit of the treaty, the presentation of the original Registers of the vessels to which they belonged, as the ground whereon to issue those warrants, I have to observe, that, by the clause in question, (the 9th article) the original seems to be required; and that the copies spoken of in another part of the treaty (the 5th article) obviously apply to other objects, and not to this. More fully, however, to explain to you the conduct of our Government upon this subject, permit me here to add an extract from our law, passed on the 9th of April, 1792, expressly to carry into effect the convention in question, and which applies to both cases :
“ The District Judges of the United States shall, within their re“spective Districts, be the competent judges of, for the purposes ex6 pressed in the 9th article of the said Convention; and it shall be “incumbent on them to give aid to the Consuls and Vice-Consuls of « France, in arresting and securing deserters from the vessels of the “ French nation, according to the tenor of the said article. And 66 where, by any article of the said Convention, the Consuls and Vice6! Consuls of France are entitled to the aid of the competent executive “officers of the country, in the execution of any precept, the Mar“shals of the United States, and their Deputies, shall, within their “ respective Districts, be the competent officers, and shall give their " aid, according to the tenor of the stipulations." By this extract you will clearly perceive that it was not the intention of our Government to frustrate or embarrass the execution of this treaty: On the contrary, that it was its intention to carry it into full effect, according to its true intent and meaning; and that it has done so, so far as could be done, by suitable legal provisions.
It may, hereafter, be deemed a subject worthy consideration, whether the first of these clauses in that Convention had not better be expunged from it. The principle of a foreign Court, established within any country, with jurisdiction independent of that country, cannot well be reconciled with any correct idea of its sovereignty. Nor can it exercise its functions without frequent interference with the autho-rities of the country; and which, naturally, occasions strife and dis. content between the two Governments. These, however, are not the only objections to the measure, though, with me, they are unanswerable. Under circumstances the most favorable, it were difficult for these Consular Tribunals to serve their process and execute their judgments. A limited jurisdiction, to a town or village only, admits of it. In the United States, therefore, and in France, where the territory is immense, and the number of citizens, of each country, in the other, considerable, as is now the case, it becomes impossible. Many of these, in each country, dwell, perhaps, in the interior, and not