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prevails in the Convention over the principles of policy, as well as of justice, that while it guided my advice, it ought to have swayed their conduct. Enclosed, you have a copy of their memorial to the Convention. I have not thought it worth while to inquire by whom it was written. The style shows it to be from a French hand. I learn that a favorable reception was secured, by repeating such parts of my conversation as might at once irritate the members of the Comité de Salut Public, and justify the personal application of American citizens, while their Minister was on the spot. A decree was obtained, and before it could be executed, was repealed."
No. 35. French Minister of Foreign Affairs to Mr. Morris, dated Paris, 141)
EXTRACT. « The extreme rigor with which the English, and other belligcrent Powers, treat all the neutral vessels destined for France, has put the Republic 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 Republic could no longer, without inattention to itseli, preserve tolerable decency towards its implacable and ferocious enemies, and that the system of depriving them of fo. reign 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 mana ner of thinking and that of our enemies. You will see, on the one hand, the firm determination of destroying 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 that extremity.
Here. then, Sir, in two words, is the situation in which the Republic stands. Its enemies have openly usurped the right of seizing all the provisions which are destined to it, and even all the Frenchmen found on board of neutral vessels. But it seems that France, attacked on all sides, abandoned to its own strength, without allies, without foreign succor, 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 favor 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 commu. nicate freely with France.
These observations, Sir, which you are too just not to appreciate, apply to the greater part of the claims which you have addressed to me for some time. I have done, with respect to several of them, all that depended on me, in order to obtain, in favor of your countrymen, an exception of the general measures with regard to neutral nations. I have used, among others, all the means with which your letters fur. nished 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 at Havre. The Tribunal has neglected nothing to render justice to the owners of this vessel. It has caused, among other things, to have translated three hundred and sixty-ono Jetters, merely to prove, in the most authentic manner, the property of the cargo.
The interested bave, 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 re. ceived. This fact, and several others, of the sainc kind, which had not escaped your attention, must have convinced you that, when the particular circumstances of the Republic permitted the administration to favor your countrymen, it was eager to give to them testimonies of the desire which it always has had, of bringing ncarer 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 cruizers may render themselves guilty, in the course of the present war. It must perceive how difficult it is to contain, within just limits, the indignation of our marines, and, in general, of all the French patriots, against a People who speak the same language, and having the same habits as the free Americans. The difficulty of distinguishing 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 disposition 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.
P. S. I enclose, herein sir, an arréte of the Committee of Public Safety, which fulfils, in part, the object proposed in your letter of the 13th of this month. I shall have the honor of communicating to you the measures which shall be taken in the sequel."
Copy of an address of Jean Bon Sant Andre to the National Conven
tion of France, enclosed by Gouverneur Morris to the Secretary of State.
(TRANSLATION.) Jean Bon Sant Andre, in the name of the Committee of Public
Safety. CITIZENS: If the report which I am instructed to make to the Convention, in the name of its Committee of Public Safety, had uo other object than the particular affair to which led it, it might appear of a trifling nature; but legislators will doubtless observe in the pas sions which bave provoked it, in the reproach of the laws, incoherent and contradictory, which have imposed on your religion in the diversity of opinion of two of your coinmittee, that it was intrigue, sup. ported by cupidity, to lead astray the wisdom of the Representatives of the people.
The privateer Sans Culotte, of Honfleurs, captured on the 20th March, about six leagues from Portland, the American ship Laurens, Captain White, bound from Charleston to London, with a cargo of rice and indigo. The Tribunal of Havre, Marat, pronounced the replevy of the vessel and cargo by its decision of 10th April. It also condemned the captors to make the necessary repairs to the Laurens for enabling her to continue her route, to make restitution, under pain of 3,000 livres, to the crew, and to pay to the American captain the damages as well as the expense of the procedure.
Vile avarice with difficulty obtains its prey. Although the decision was just, as there did not then exist a law authorizing a French privateer to capture an American vessel, it was expected to obtain from the Convention a decree favorable to the pretensions of the owners. The proposition was not at first made openly, but intrigue, which is incessantly put in motion around us, which fabricates in darkness, which deceives even the most circumspect, the ideas of justice and equity, obtained that in the decree of 9th of May, rendered on the report of the Marine Committee, which authorizes the French privateers to seize, on board of neutral vessels, enemy provi. sions and mercbandises. A retrospective effect should be given by the 5th article of that law. This was a surprise on your Marine Committee. Thus did the Minister of the United States think, who reclaimed strongly against this disposition, which he attributed to the suggestions of the owners of the privateer Sans Culotte.
The Committee of Public Safety, informed of the complaints of the Minister of the United States. demanded and obtained the report of the decree.
The second decide was again reported on the 28th of May. In fact, the Convention, to whom this question appeared delicate at that time, confined itself to order that the merchandises taken on board of neutrals, should remain prorisionally sequestered, and that the Commit
tees of Public Safety and of Marinc, in conjunctión, should report to. them on this business.
The Committee of Public Safety, pressed by the claims of the Minister of the United States, on the 1st of July made a report, on which the Convention decreed that, conformably to the treaty of 6th February, 1778, the vessels of the United States should not be coinprehended in the dispositions of the decree of the 9th May.
The affair relative to the taking of the Laurens, seemed terminated by this decree. The owners of the Sans Culotte dared to hope for a new triumph, and, what is incredible, obtained it. The Committee of Marine, on the petition presented by them to the Convention, brought about the decree of the 27th July, which maintained the dispositions of that of the 9th May.
However, a great and important question of policy was submitted to your wisdom by your Committee of Public Safety. Its object was to prepare the future glory of your commerce by determining to what point foreigners should be perinitted to participate therein : the Cominittee of Public Safety proposed to you the act of navigation; you decreed, amidst the reiterated applause of an enlightened People, capable of appreciating the utility of the measures taken for their happiness. Now, in this navigation act you declared, in the name of the French nation, that you would fully maintain the commercial treaty concluded with the United States. .
What doubt. therefore, can remain on this interminable affair? or shall we look for the expression of the true will of the Legislature in a decree which might bave been the effect of surprise, or in one of those general laws, the fruit of the genius of the Legislature, made to descend to the latest posterity, and which, embracing in its dispositionis all the views of policy, must have an authority equal to the force of the principles forming its basis, and to the happy effects which it should produce.
The Executive Council, obliged to pronounce between the French privateer and the American captain, seeing only the law and its principles, decreed the replevy of the ship Laurens, the payment of the 'articles of first necessity on board of her, and a just indemnification for the captain. The owners of the privateer complain most bitterly of this decision, and, adding insult to resentment, they accused the Executive Council of being bribed by Pitt. To imitate his Machiavelism; to commit injustice to neutral nations; to alienate Governments preserving friendship for us; and to prefer the fleeting interests of some individuals to that of the Republic in general, would seem to be under his influence.
But to haye the courage of being just, even to its own detriment, and to consider much less its riches than its honor, is the character and the duty of a free nation which has founded virtue solely as the basis of its government.
The Executive Council has but one thing to reproach itself with : that of having had a moment of weakness. Notwithstanding the evidence of the proofs resalting from the date of the departure of the
ship Laurens from Charleston, the 7th February, when she could not have had any knowledge of the rupture between France and England, of the interrogation of the crew, of the bill of lading, and especially of the correspondence of the party who loaded her; notwithstanding so many testimonies collectively.concurring to attest the illegality of the capture, it consented to submit its decree to a revision.
A new examination has produced the same result. The Executive Council has been more and more convinced that the law of nations, which, in the principles of your policy, does not differ from justice, did not permit longer to detain a vessel which belongs to a neutral and friendly nation. Already have eight months elapsed since the taking of this vessel ; several methods have been used to embroil an affair simple in itself; still renewed by all the concerned in the Sans Culotte, and still returning to the sanctuary of the laws. This is an asylum without doubt, but it is open but to innocence, to generous and disinterested patriotism, and not to vile cupidity and the egotist.
Your committee, who have traced this business, who have sisted it, do not deem it necessary to support demonstrative proofs by presumpa tion ; but they conceive they have discovered the true motives of that obstinate resistance wbich is opposed to the judgment of the tribunal, and to the acts of the Executive Council, and it is because they conceive they know them, that they abstain from speaking of them.
How insinuating and adroit is the thirst for riches ! how great is the art of violating the most sacred principles, in order to turn it to the establishment of principles themselves! They endeavor to draw your attention to the lot of the families of the marines interested in the prize. The captors say, in their petition, that those families would be reduced to misery if you decree the replevy of the Laurens. Legislators, you know the spirit which animates the marines : it is yours, it is that which pervades the whole French people, of which they form part. To injure the enemy of the country; to force them to respect it; to treat delicately its friends, rendering them affection for affection, benevolence for benevolence : this is what they wish. The sailors, when you shall have determined, will submit to your decision; they will rove on the sea and compensate themselves on the English for the justice you shall render to the Americans. It is not the interest of the sailor which the interested seek to save ; this is trifling and inconsiderable; it is their own. It is their own fortune which influences their claim; they have just requested you to enrich themselves. Legislators, should you comply ?
The following is the project which your Committee of Public Safety charge me to present to you:
" The National Convention, after having heard the report of its Committee of Public Safety on the petition presented to them by the owners and crew of the privateer the Sans Culotte, relative to the prize made by that privateer of the American ship Laurens, Captain White, and upon which the Tribunal of Havre, Marat, by its deci. -sion of the 10th April, and the Execative Council by its arrêts of the