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an order for the payment into the treasury of the moneys arising from the sales of the American property seized at Antwerp, of that sold at Bayonne (St. Sebastian's, &c., seizures), and of the American vessels delivered by Holland to France in consequence of a special unpublished treaty; which moneys, together with certain other funds, are by the decree appropriated to defray the additional expenses provided for by the budget. The other secret decree is of a cotemporaneous date with the official communication to Mr. Armstrong that the Berlin and Milan decrees would be revoked on certain conditions in the month of November next ensuing; it embraces all the vessels and cargoes seized in France or in the dominions of her allies subsequent to May, 1809; or, in other words, all the sequestered American property with the exception of that seized in Antwerp; and, under pretence of retaliation, it directs a disposition of the proceeds in terms not amounting to condemnation but susceptible of being so construed. This decree may not be known to the present French government, or they may be ashamed to avail themselves of such a mean and perfidious act; certain it is that it has never been alluded to. It was sent to me from a private but authentic source, and was sent through mistake instead of another document. I have no copy of it, but left one in the archives of the American mission at Paris, and sent one to the Department of State.
4thly. That the seizures at St. Sebastian's and in Holland were avowedly made in retaliation of the Act of Congress of March, 1809. The fact that such was the pretence set up by Bonaparte cannot be denied ; and he never abandoned that ground; at least, it will be found that in the last letter from his Minister of Foreign Affairs to Mr. Armstrong the determination is expressed to try those cases according to the law of retaliation. This ground may probably be taken by the present government of France, but, not having been distinctly avowed, no opportunity offered to discuss it. The answer will be found in the well-established principle that the law of retaliation cannot go beyond its avowed object,--that of obtaining redress for the injury actually sustained, and in the following facts, viz. : 1st, that the Act of Congress complained of was nothing more than a prohibition to import French or English merchandise, or to admit in our ports French or English vessels, accompanied by the usual clause of forfeiture (as in all other revenue laws) in case the law was infringed; which prohibition was an act lawful in itself, forced on the United States by the previous violations of the law of nations by France and England, and inoffensive to either by being made common to both ; 2dly, that this Act was communicated to the French government immediately after its passage, without calling any complaint on its part; instead of which, about seven months after that communication, and without any previous notice, the pretended decree of retaliation was issued. It is very clear that had France issued a decree, with proper notice, forbidding the entrance of American vessels in Spanish and other ports in her possession, none would have attempted to enter such ports, and the seizures in question would not have taken place; 3dly, that it is believed (though this fact requires investigation) that not a single French vessel was forfeited under the Act of Congress complained of.
5thly. That the present government of France is not responsible for any of the injuries committed against the Americans by that of Bonaparte. This doctrine, not having been distinctly asserted, has not been discussed; and it is so contrary to the acknowledged law of nations, to the treaties of France with the allied powers, and to the uniform recognition of all the laws and acts of Bonaparte's government in relation to French subjects and to the internal concerns of France, that it is not probable that it will be officially sustained. Still, the sentiment, half concealed, half avowed, is entertained; and, together with the want of a sense of justice and with the magnitude of the claims, is the real objection to their admission, everything else which has been mentioned being nothing but pretence and evasion. And the most candid of the French Ministers have declared that they would never grant indemnities for condemnations; that such was the mass of injustice committed by Bonaparte that France was unable to make full compensation for it; that the allied powers, with 500,000 men occupying France, had been so sensible of this truth that they had agreed to accept, in full discharge of the indemnities claimed by their subjects, a sum falling very short of their just demands; and that the United States must agree to a transaction founded on similar principles. On this I will only observe that the British subjects were more than compensated in full, and that, as far as I could form an estimate, the subjects of the other powers received on an average about one-half (or perhaps rather more) of their just demands, to which may be added that ours stand, on the whole, on higher grounds in point of justice than many of theirs which were allowed.
You will, from what precedes, form a correct estimate of the difficulties which stood and stand in the way of an arrangement. And you will see by the correspondence that the whole is now arrested by the demand of France that the subject should be treated in connection with the question arising under the 8th Article of the Louisiana convention. I consider the pretension set up by France under color of that article, and her interference in the case of Beaumarchais, as intended only to obtain better terms in the adjustment of the claims of American citizens.
It being ascertained that the French government would not make compensation in the cases of condemnations, and it being impossible that that of the United States should abandon that description of claims, three modes only suggested themselves of coming to a practicable result, viz. :
I. To attempt to obtain, gradually, payment for the claims which France seemed disposed to allow, without entering into any convention, and reserving therefore, unimpaired, the rights of our fellow-citizens in cases not allowed. It was on that ground that the Antwerp claims were first pressed, as the most unexceptionable. Some progress was made; but Mr. de Villèle, as soon as he took up the subject, declared his opposition to any partial payment, and that a transaction must be made for the whole.
II. To accept in full compensation for all our claims a gross sum, to be distributed by commissioners appointed by the government of the United States. It is not probable that the French government will offer a reasonable sum; and the distribution would be very embarrassing to ours. It seems to me that they could and would make no distinction between sequestrations and unlawful condemnations.
III. To refer all the claims to a joint commission, half
American, half French, with a stipulation to refer to a foreign sovereign the decision (as to principle, but not for liquidation) of the cases on which the commissioners should disagree.
Mr. Brown is instructed to press again the subject. Should he fail, you may now be able to judge what course it is best for the claimants to pursue. It was in the Antwerp cases that I was asked whether they had not better sell the claim. I advised against it, because the claim seemed irresistible, because there appeared some prospect to obtain payment, and because, if compelled to sell, I wished, considering the means to which the claimants might be compelled to resort, that the transaction might not take place whilst I was minister of the United States to France.
I believe that the correspondence communicated to Congress will supply all the necessary information not contained in this letter, and I think that it would be advisable to have the said correspondence republished in some newspapers, in order to make the scattered claimants acquainted with the state of the business, and in order to produce some national feeling in favor of the claims. Some parts would then also, perhaps, find their way in the French papers; and there is still in France something like a public opinion, which has its weight.
I regret that I had not more consoling information to give you; but it is proper that you should be in possession of the whole subject. The only advantage gained during a negotiation of more than six years (besides removing prejudices of a general nature arising from our war with England, which gave us the unfounded appearance of concert with Bonaparte) is, that France, unable to deny the justice of our claims and to repel our arguments, has declined the discussion; and that, after so long a silence and even the little she has said, it seems impossible that her government should dare hereafter to deny altogether their responsibility, or advance any of those sweeping objections which would embrace the whole of our claims.
You will have the goodness to excuse this scrawl. I have not time to correct and transcribe.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, gentlemen, your most obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO WALTER LOWRIE.
NOTE ON MR. GALLATIN'S CITIZENSHIP.
WASHINGTON, 19th February, 1824. Mr. Gallatin arrived in the United States in the year 1780, and became a citizen under the laws of Virginia in October, 1785, having taken the requisite oath of allegiance for that purpose at that session of the court of Monongalia County, Having been elected a Senator of the United States in February, 1793, it was naturally objected that he had not been nine years a citizen of the United States, as required by the Constitution. The facts had been stated by himself and were known at the time when he was elected.
The grounds on which his eligibility was sustained were, 1st, that having come to the United States as a minor, during the Revolutionary contest and prior to the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, he was embraced by that compact, and must be considered as a citizen; 2dly, that he had been an inhabitant of a State more than nine years before his election, which was sufficient to give him the rights of citizen under the Articles of Confederation. It was provided by the 4th of those Articles that “the free inhabitants of each of these States (paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted) should be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States." An extract from the 42d number of the Federalist was quoted to show that at the time when the Constitution of the United States was under consideration that clause was construed in the sense contended for. And the
provision substituted in lieu thereof in the Constitution, viz., that “the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States," was adduced in proof that the presumed defect in the expression used in the Articles of Confederation was understood and corrected by the framers of the Constitution. The several facts contained in the statement were brought forward in order to establish the time when and the age at which Mr. Gallatin had come to the United States, and to prove that prior to February, 1784, being nine