« ForrigeFortsett »
very importunate on that part of the treaty. If you give yourself the trouble to exainine the time at which my correspondence began to be more pressing and more animated, you will see that it was not on the affair of the prizes, which I troubled you most. But I allow that I have become more pressing since it appeared to me that the English vessels were admitted into your ports in contravention of our treaties, and in contempt of all neutrality, after having made French prizes and pillaged your vessels under the single pretext of trading with France,
The 17th article of our treaty, in my opinion, leaves no doubt that all asylum should be refused, (except in cases of distress or of tempest,) to the English vessels who shall have made prize of French vessels or of French property. Under this persuasion it was, that I early complained against the admission of every English vessel of that denomination; it was this persuasion which induced me to write my letter of the 18th September, in answer to yours of the 7th of the same month, in which I found a construction of the treaty which to me appeared new. I admit, however, that you had notified to me in your letter of 20th August, preceding the regulations of the President of the United States, establishing it, but I was so far from suspecting this article, that I did not in reading it observe it. These regulations are not among the papers of the office of legation, which leads me to believe that they never were notified to it, before the 20th August last. If no complaint has ever been made on the subject, the reason most undoubtedly is, that the English had not then a maritime force upon the coast, and that they had not dreamed (as we never thought ourselves that they had the right) of making use of your ports as a station, after having commited the acts for which the treaty pronounces against them a positive exclusion. Therefore, sir. the silence of the Envoys of France with the United States, cannot be argued on this subject.
On analyzing all my complaints upon this part of the treaty, they are reduced to the entry of English vessels which had captured French vessels or French property, to the admission of these vessels with their prizes, or to the admission of their prizes alone. There never has been any hesitation on the last point. Upon the rest the greatest part of what I have written, is built, I avow, according to your construction, upon a false basis. But even admitting that construction, the Terpsichore should not bave been admitted at Norfolk, with the Privateer La Montagne which she had captured ; and the English ship Argonaut should not have entered with the Corvette L'Esperance, nor have equipped the latter in your waters ; on the first point you reminded me of all the Federal Executive had done, and of my own letters, in which I have expressed my satisfaction.
But, sir, If I could not but be satisfied at that time, with the performance of the promises, of the Government, reflect I pray you, whether I have equally had reason to be so with what has passed at Norfolk, and at a distance from it: and my complaints in general have been grounded upon what happened far from its immediate inspection. A short statement of the facts, which appear not to be entirely known to you, will enable you to judge whether my suspicions on the slackness of the local Governors or those under them, are groundless
The French Consul at Norfolk, on the 31st August, wrote to request the expulsion of the Frigate Terpsichore and of her prize the Privateer La Montagne. Governor Lee, after a lapse of twelve days, answered him. He answered on the 12th of September, that he was going to make inquiry. It appears that the inquiry was not made: for on the 25th September, two other English frigates entered Hampton roads, with two prizes made upon us; and the same day the Vice Consul sent a new complaint to the Executive of Virginia. The inquiries of Governor Lee could not have been very extensive, or have been madein much baste: for it would seem that if, on replying on the 12th September, to the Vice Consul, he had written to the officers whom it concerned, and given them orders, we should not at this moment see the evil renewed, thirteen days after that reply. The Vice Consul received from the Lieutenant Governor an answer, dated the 9th of October. In this answer the Lieutenant Governor pretends not to have read the second letter from the Consul of the 25th September, and does not reply to it: he speaks of the affair of the Terpsichore, of which the Vice Consul did not mention a word in that second letter, she having sailed at that time, as you justly observe, that is to say, twenty-five days after her entering into your ports with a French prize.
You here ask me, sir, where I find reasons to support a predilection for England? I shall answer you with the same freedom you interrogate me. I observe that our consuls are amused by specious correspondences merely to cover inactivity ; that our enemies are permitted to do what they please, from the want of precise instructions to the commandants of ports, which should authorize them to act immediate ly on such contraventions of the treaty taking place. Certainly, sir, it is not requiring that the correspondence should travel with extradinary swiftness, to complain that at one hundred miles distance from the Seat of the Government of Virginia, two successive infractions of the treaty were committed in the course of one month. But how is it wished that things should be rigorously executed, when, on the 9th October, that is to say, thirty-nine days after the first complaint of the Consul, the Lieutenant Governor wrote to the militia officers without mentioning the second infraction, communicated to him relative to the Terpsichore alone, and give them what instruction? Not that of causing this frigate to depart if she was still in the river, but to make inquiry into the situation of the Terpsichore, and of every other vessel in like circumstances, and inform of the result. Certainly, sir, it appears that the correspondence travelled with much greater swiftness formerly, if we may judge from the letter of the Governor, of the 22d August, 1793, addressed to the Custom-house and militia officers, which was among the enclosures of your letter of the 24th February. He says, in speak ing of the prizes suspected of having been made by vessels armed and cquipped in the ports of the United States, which can scarcely be applied but to French vessels : “ If those prizes come into the ports of your district, you will immediately have them seized by your militia." On the 5th of December following, he gave additional orders for having seized, in like manner, the prizes alleged to have been made with in the jurisdictional line of the waters of the United States, and then to inform him of such seizure. Those orders are still pursued, and there are few prizes, as I have already said, which will not be alleged to have been made in the waters of the United States, or by vessels which have augmented their armaments in them. We still see prizes arrested in the first place, and examined afterwards. Why did not Mr. Lee authorize the commandant at Norfolk, to cause previously to depart every vessel arriving with a prize? It was, on again finding those ancient orders presented by him as a proof of his activity in doing justice to my complaints, that I could not avoid saying I had no need of them to convince me that the most prompt severity has never been omitted to be employed towards us. If I were disposed to cite new examples, I could mention the affair of the Favorite, on board of which vessel armed men were sent to search in the port of New York, without saying a word to the Consul residing there, and without observing the most common respect due to a public vessel by the law of nations, and stipulated for ours by treaty. I might cite the vigor with which a vessel, going to Gaudaloupe, and suspected, indeed, of an infraction of the rules of your neutrality, had been arrested at Norfolk. I leave it to impartial men to compare this energetic conduct with the orders lately given against the English vessels which refused to respect your neutrality, and the alteration of those public orders almost immediately after they were issued.
As to the affair of the corvette L'Esperance, it was vain to support the conduct, in that respect, with what the Consul of the Republic said on the subject. The Argonaut, which took her, should not have been permitted to enter more readily than herself; and she, having been partially equipped in your waters, should have been proscribed. I shall not take the trouble to examine the deposition of Butler, the pilot, and his retraction. To judge of the merit of the whole of this little action, I do not know the interval which passed between the pro and the con, and in which officious persons may have informed Butler that he had been imposed on or mistaken.
After having reviewed the different particular cases upon which I have complained, permit me to give an opinion which has weight with me; which is, that it is impossible for me, among the constructions given to that part of the treaty, to discover the intention of the two contracting parties. By the treaty of alliance, France relinquished her former neighboring possessions to the Nortlıward of the United States, in which she had ports of great convenience during her wars. By the treaty of amity and commerce, signed the same day, she conceived that she assured to herself some advantages, as an indemnification in the ports of the United States themselves, of which she had in part deprived her enemies. This latter treaty has never said that there should be given an asylum to capturing vessels coming with their prizes it says, that asylum shall not be given te any vessel having made prizes. Permit me, sir, to say that this is not a construction but an addition which you give to the treaty, which are different things. According to this addition, it were sufficient when I complained of the repairs made to the Thetis, to reply that she had a right to them.
From these forced constructions it results that the belligerent Powers raise pretensions which were not looked for, and acknowledged themselves that the meaning of our treaties appears to them obscure. The correspondence which took place on this subject between you and the Minister of Great Britain, is very important to consult on this point. Have not you yourself been struck with this avowal of Mr. Hammond, thạt tlie treaty specifies only the conduct to be observed towards the capturing vessels, and says nothing of the prizes? What trouble had you in urging your construction when you answered him, “I hope, sir, that you will not interpret the article so literally as to pretend that it refuses asylum to capturing vessels only: for it excludes every vessel which shall have made prizes on the French;" without doubt, sir. that is the true construction; every thing becomes clear when that is maintained ; the capturing vessel as well as her prize are not admitted into your ports.
As to the rest, sir, as you have observed, a difference of opinion between the Agent of a Power and the Government to which he is sent, is not by any means conclusive. I adhere with all my heart with you to the principles contained in the part of Mr. Jefferson's letter which you cite; but I observe that there is no reason to make me the reproach you seem to insinuate. I ought to insist on my manner of construction, and present it to you under all its forms as long as you do not inform me that the President cannot admit my observations. Now you have done so, I should content myself with the referring them to the French Government. I have gone over in detail the different points stated in our correspondence, let us return to that part of your letter which considers the neutrality of the United States.
I conceived, sir, that the respect and circumspection with which I had touched on this question. would have spared me the bitter reflections which your letter appears to contain on that matter. However great may be my desire to enter into details for my own defence, yet I shall waive them, from the same motives which dictated my first letter. But, sir, if these sentiments had not been with me so weighty, I could at least take off the veil which you seem' willing to leave over the measures of the English, and refute the application of the principle, upon which you ground the silence of the Government of the United States on the subject of these measures. I might make it doubtful whether the arbitrary proclamations of the English Government and Generals were but the ordinary obstructions with which neutral commerce is assailed in all wars. I might in like manner hesitate to admit that the Federal Government had not sufficient grounds to demand their revocation. But that would lead against my inclination into an examination of the cases in wbich
a neutral Power should actually acknowledge the legality of an interruption of its commerce, such as those of a place blockaded and contraband. I should also be obliged to examine whether the principles with which the English Government endeavor to support itself are consecrated by the Law of Nations, or whether they are not rather established to serve on the present occasion ; whether in changing the language the Cabinet of London has changed its mea. sures ; whether the successive orders of the 8th June and 6th November, 1793, and of the 8th January, 1794, are not variations of the same system, to which the depredations still exercised on your commerce, are the sequel ; whether, in a word, it is true that the United States are suffering with all Neutral Nations under the same insults, or particularly sacrificed to exclusive vexations. In enumerating these things I only remind you of what has already come to your knowledge. and trace facts against which I know you are not less indignant than France, against whom they are specially directed. The history of your neutrality, would, perhaps, prove my assertion, that it has been a prey to the arbitrary conduct of Great Britain, and would have served as a justification of what I might and should represent on the subject.
In fact, from the evidently precarious situation of the neutrality of America, and from the vexations to which she is subjected, could I not show that this neutrality is in a violent situation to which the United States cannot consent ; from this violent situation, would I not have reason to infer the necessity of an energetic and vigorous reaction, and of a solemn reparation, which, by giving to America what her honor requires, would have manifested towards the French Republic the inclination and intentions of your Government ? I would have remarked that these reparations had been announced at a certain period, but that, if public report were believed, they appeared as far off as ever. From this contradiction between the promises and the performance of them, this consequence seems to arise, that the United States had not yet established their neutrality upon as respectable a footing as France desired, and had instructed me to demand: I was going to conclude that your Government had not done in this respect every thing in its power, and I feared lest this backwardness should arise from a lukewarmness towards its ancient ally, who has not ceased, on the contrary, to testify to it how much she desired to see the bands which connect the two countries brought closer together. This idea suggests to me a reflection, that the friendship professed by the United States towards our Republic, and of which they have on several occasions repeated assurances, does not permit them to alter their situation towards our most mortal enemies, to our disadvantage and amidst hostilities, the origin of which undoubtedly take date from the independence of America.
These remarks, which I have long revolved in my mind, led me, sir, accidentally to speak to you of the treaty, in my letter of the 2d May; but feeling all the circumspection which the silence ob. served on that act prescribed, I only presented doubts to yoll, and