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DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, 20th May, 1826. The Secretary of State, in compliance with a resolution of the Se. Date, of the 5th March, 1824, which was referred to this Department, requesting the President to cause to be laid before the Senate copies of the several instructions to the ministers of the United States to the Guvernment of France, and of the correspondence between the said ministers and Government, having reference to the spoliations committed by that Power on the commerce of the United States, an. terior to the soth September, 1800, or so much thereof as can be communicated without prejudice to the public interest; also, how far, if at all the claim of indemnity from the Government of France for the spoliations aforesaid, was affected by the convention entered into between the United States and France, on the said 30th September, 1800," has the honor to report to the President copies of so much of the instructions and correspondence in question, as is supposed to be embraced in the call of the Senate; to which are added copies of other papers and documents, to a great extent, which are believed to be within the intention, if not comprehended in the terms of the resolution of the Senate. By a reference to former messages to Congress, and to the public documents, the publication of which had been authorized, from time to time, by Government, it will be perceived that many of the papers now reported, have been already communicated to Congress, or spread before the public through the medium of the press; but it has been thought, nevertheless, expedient, to submit them in their present collected form, that a full and connected view might be presented at the same time. There may be even yet remaining in the archives of the Department others, having a bearing on the subject, which bave escaped our diligence and researches.
My predecessor was unable to command, from the other important duties which he had to perform, sufficient time to have this collection completed during his continuance in office, after the passage of the resolution of the Senate. The same cause, not less sensibly felt by his successor, has delayed this report until the present period, and he feels himself required to state that, without material injury to the public service, he was, himself, unable to examine the many volumes containing the very extensive correspondence, from which the copies and extracts, now submitted, have been taken; or even attentively to peruse the whole of those copies and extracts, which have been just finished. The desire to present them to the Senate, in conformity to the anxious wish of the claimants, before the close of its present session, renders these explanations necessary, and it is hoped that they may prove satisfactory.
The closing paragraph of the resolution of the Senate onjoins another duty, which, from the ambiguous manner in which it is expressed, the Secretary feels some difficulty in clearly comprehending. The Senate resolved, “that the President of the United States be requested to cause to be laid before the Senate copies,” &c, and concludes by requesting to cause also to be laid before the Senate,“ how far, if at all, the claim of indemnity from the Government of France for the spoliations aforesaid was affected by the convention entered into between the United States and France, on the said 30th of September, 1800.”
The Secretary can hardly suppose it to have been the intention of the resolution to require the expression of an argumentative opinion as to the degree of responsibility to the American sufferers from French spoliations, which the convention of 1800 extinguished, on the part of France, or devolved on the United States, the Senate itself being most competent to decide that question. Under this impression, he hopes that he will have sufficiently conformed to the purposes of the Senate, by a brief statement, prepared in a hurried moment, of what he understands to be the question.
The second article of the convention of 1800, was in the following words: “The Ministers Plenipotentiary of the two parties, not being able to agree at present respecting the treaty of alliance of 6th February, 1778, the treaty of amity and commerce of the same date, and the convention of 14th November, 1788, nor upon the indemnities mutually due or claimed; the parties will negotiate further on these subjects at a convenient time, and until they may have agreed upon these points, the said treaties and convention shall have no operation, and the relations of the two countries shall be regulated as follows." · When that convention was laid before the Senate, it gave its consent and advice that it should be ratified, provided that the second article be expunged, and that the following article be added or inserted : “ It is agreed that the present convention shall be in force for the term of eight years from the time of the exchange of the ratifications ;" and it was accordingly so ratified by the President of the Uniied States, on the 18th day of February, 1801; on the 31st of July, of the same year, it was ratified by Bonaparte, First Consul of the French Republic, who incorporated in the instrument of his ratification the following clause, as a part of it: “The Government of the United States having added to its ratification, that the convention should be in force for the space of eight years, and having omitted the second article, the Government of the French Republic consents to accept, ratify, and confirm the above convention, with the addition importing that the convention shall be in force for the space of eight years, and with the retrenchment of the second article : provided, that, by this retrenchment, the two States renounce the respective pretensions which are the object of the said article.
The French ratification being thus conditional, was nevertheless exchanged against that of the United States, at Paris, on the same 31st of July. The President of the United States considering it neces
sary again to submit the convention, in this state, to the Senate, on the 19th day of December, 1801, it was resolved by the Senate, that they considered the said convention as fully ratified, and returned it to the President for the usual promulgation. It was accordingly promulgated, and thereafter regarded as a valid and binding compact. The two contracting parties thus agreed, by the retrenchment of the second article, mutually to renounce the respective pretensions which were the object of that article. The pretensions of the United States, to which allusion is thus made, arose out of the spoliations, under color of French authority, in contravention to law and existing treaties. Tbose of France sprung from the treaty of alliance of the 6th Feb. ruary, 1778, the treaty of amity and commerce of the same date, and the convention of the 14th of November, 1788. Whatever obligations or indemnities from those sources either party had a right to demand, were respectively waived and abandoned, and the consideration which induced one party to renounce his pretensions, was that of the renunciation by the other party of his pretensions, What was the value of the obligations and indemnities so reciprocally renounced, can only be matter of speculation. Tbe amount of the indemnities due to citizens of the United States was very large, and on the other hand, the obligation was great, (to specify no other French pretensions) under which the United States were placed in the 11th article of the treaty of alliance of 6th February, 1778, by which they were bound forever to guarantee from that time, the then possessions of the crown of France in America, as well as those which it might acquire by the future treaty of peace with Great Britain ; all these possessions hav. ing been, it is believed, conquered at, or not long after, the exchange of the ratifications of the convention of September, 1800, by the arms of Great Britain, from France.
The fifth article of the amendments to the constitution, provides, 4 nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” If the indemnities to which citizens of the United States were entitled for French spoliations, prior to the 30th September, 1800, have been appropriated to absolve the United States from the fulfilment of an obligation which they had contracted, or from the payment of indemnities which they were bound to make to France, the Senate is most competent to determine how far such an appropriation is a public use of private property, within the spirit of the constitution, and whether equitable considerations do not require some compensation to be made to the claimants. The Senate is also best able to estimate the probability which existed, of an ultimate recovery from France of the amount due for those indemnities, if they bad not been renounced, in making which estimate, it will no doubt give just weight to the painful consideration, that repeated and urgent appeals have been, in vain, made to the justice of France, for satisfaction of flagrant wrongs, committed upon property of other citizens of the United States subsequent to the period of 30th September, 1800. All which is respectfully submitted."
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LIST OF PAPERS
Accompanying the Report of the Secretary of State, to the President of
the United States, dated the 20th May, 1826.
No.' 1. Mr. Morris, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipo
tentiary of the United States to France, to Mr. Jefferson,
Secretary of State, 10th July, 1792–Extract. 2. Same to same,
22d Aug’t 1792 do. 8. Same to same,
21st Dec. 1792 do. 4. Same to same,
25th Jan. 1793 do. : 5. Same to same,
13th Feb. 1793 do. 6. Same to Mr. Pinckney, Minister of the United States to
Great Britain, 18th Feb. 1793. 7. French Decree,
i9th Feb, 1793–Translation. 8. Same,
26th March, 1793. do. 9. Mr. Morris to Mr. Le Brun, French Minister of Foreign Affairs,
24th March, 1793. 10. Same to same,
28th March, 1793. in. 11. Mr. Le Brun to Mr. Morris, .
29th March, 1793. 12. French Minister of Marine to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs,
7th April, 1793—Translation 13. Mr. Morris to the Secretary of State,
4th April, 1793-Extract. 14. French Minister of Marine to the Civil Ordonnateurs,
30th March, 1793— Translation, 15. Mr. Le Brun to Mr. Morris,
April 8, 1793-Extract. 16. Same to same,
April 8, 1793_Translation. 17. Mr. Morris to Mr. Le Brun,
May 14th, 1793. 18. French Decree,
May 9th, 1793.-Translation. 19. Extract from Registers of Deliberations of French Provia,
sory Executive Council, May 16th, 1793.-Translation." 20. Mr. Le Brun to Mr. Morris,
May 17, 1793. do. 21. Mr. Morris to Mr. Le Brun,
June 12th, 1793. I do. 22. Mr. Le Brun to Mr. Morris,
May 26th, 1793. 23. French Decree,
May 23d, 1793. 24. Mr. Morris to Mr. Le Brun,
June 19th, 1793.-Extract.
June 25th, 1793. do.
June 27th, 1793.