« PrejšnjaNaprej »
And what reason is afligned for denying to us the enjoyment of this right? Your own words furnith the answer : “ France, bound by treaty to the United States, could find only a real dijadvantage in the articles of that treaty, which caused to be respected, as American property, English property found on board American vessels.” This requilition, and the reason alligned to support it, alike excite surprize. The American government, Sir, conscious of the purity of its intentions, of its iinpartial obfervance of the laws of neutrality, and of iis inviolable regard to treaties, cannot for a moment admit, that it has forfeited the right to claim a reciprocal observance of ftipulations on the part of the French Republic, whose friendship moreover it has every reason to cultivate with the most perfect sincerity. This right, formerly infringed by a decree of the National Convention, was recognized anew by the repeal of that decree. Why it Thould be again questioned we are at a loss to determine. We are ignorant of any new restraints on our commerce by the British government; on the contrary, we pofless recent official information, that no nero orders have been issued.
The captures made by the British of American verels, having French property on board, are warranted by the law of nations. The force and operation of this law was contemplated by France and the United States, when they formed their treaty of commerce, and their special ftipulation on this point was meant as an exception to an universal rule; neither our weakness nor our strength have any choice, when the question concerns the observance of a known rule of the law of nations.
You are pleased to remark, 'that the conduct of Great Britain, in capturing vessels bound to and from French ports, had been the subject of a note, which on the 29th of September, 1795, was addressed to the secretary of state, but wbich remained without an answer. Very fufficient reasons may be alligned for the omillion, The subject, in all its afpecis, had been officially and publicly discussed, and the principles and ultimate measures of the United States, founded on their indisputable rights, were as publicly fixed. But if the subject had not, by the previous diseuifions, been already exhausted, can it be a maiter of surprise that there should be a repugnance to answer a letter containing such infinuations as these?
“ It must then be clear to every man, who will discard prejudices, love, hatred, and, in a word, all the pallions which Icad the judgment altray, that the French Republic have a right to complain, if the American government suffered the Englih to interrupt the commercial relations which exist between her and the United States; if by a perfidious condescension it permited the Englih to violate a right which it ought, for its own honcur ant
interij? interill, to defend ; if, under the cloak of neutrality, it presented to England a poniurd to cut the throat of its faithful ally; if, in fine, partaking in the tyrannical and homicidal rage of Greut Britain, it concurred to plunge the people of France into the horrors of famine !" For the sake of preferving harmony, tilence was preferred to a comment opon these infinuations,
You are allo plealed to refer to your letters of March and April lait, relative to impreiles of American seamen by British thips, and complain that the government of the United States had not made known to you the flips they had taken to obtain fatisfaction. This, Sir, was a matter which concerned only that government, As an independent nation, we are not bound to render an account to any other of the measures we deemed proper for the protection of our own citizens ; lo long as there was not the lighielt ground 10 lufpc&t that the government ever acquiefced in any aggrellion.
But permit me to recur to the subject of the decree of the Executive Directory.
As before observed, we are oficially informed that the British government have illud no new orders for capturing the vellels of the United States. We are also officially informed, that on the appearance of the notification of that decree, the minister of the United States at Paris applied for information, " Whether orders were illued for the seizure of neutral vessels, and was informed, that no fuch order was illued, and further, that no such lorder would be illued, in cafe the British did not leize our vefsels." This communication from the minister of the United States, at Paris, to their minister at London, was dated the 28th of August; but the decree of the Directory bears date the 14th Metlidor, answering to the 20 of July. These circumftances, together with some observations in your note, leave the American government in a state of uncertainty of the real intentions of the government in France, Allow me then to alh, whether, in the actual state of things, our commerce is considered as liable to luffer any new reftriations on the part of the French Republic? Whether the restraints now exercitad by the Britith government are considered as of a nature to juility a denial of those rights, which are pledged to us by our treaty with your nation? Whether orders have been actually given to the thips of war of the French Re. public to capture the veties of the United States? And what, if they exist, are the precise terms of those orders ?
The questions, Sir, you will fee, are highly interesting to the United States. It is with extreine concern that the government finds itself reduced to the neceflity of atking an explanation of this nature, and if it thall be informed that a new line of conduct is to be adopted towards this country, on the ground of the decree referred to, its furprise will equin its regret, ihat principles thould now be questioned, which, after repaied discullions, both here
and in France, have been demonstrated to be founded, as we conceive, in the obligations of impartial neutrality, of ftipulations by treaty, and of the law of nations. I hope, Sir, you will find it convenient, by an early answer, to remove the suspense in which the government of the United States is now held on the question above stated.
I shall close this letter by one remark on the fingularity of your causing the publication of your note. As it concerned the United States, it was properly addressed to its government, to which alone pertained the right of communicating it in such time and manner as it should think fit to the citizens of the United States.
I am, Sir, with great respect,
Your most obedient servant,
TIMOTHY PICKERING. United States, Philadelphia, Nov. 3. Ta M. Adet, Minister Plenipotentiary of the
Note from the Minister of the French Republic 19 the Secretary of
State of the United Provinces,
THE undersigned minister plenipotentiary of the French Re
public now fulfils, to the secretary of state of the United States, a painful but sacred duty. He claims, in the name of American honour, in the name of the faith of treaties, the execution of that contract, which assured in the United States their existence, and which France regarded as the pledge of the most facred union between two people the freest upon earth : in a word, he announces to the secretary of state the resolution of a government, terrible to its enemies, but generous to its allies.
It would have been pleasing to the undersigned minister plenipotentiary to have only to express, on the present occesion, the attachment which his government bears to the American people, the vows which it forms for their prosperity, for their happiness. His heart, therefore, is grieved at the circumstances which impore upon him a different task. With regret he finds himself compelled to substitute the tone of reproach for the language of friendship. With regret also his government has ordered him to take that tone, but that very friendship has rendered it indispenfible. Its obligations, sacred to men, are as sacred to governments; and if a friend, offended by a friend, can juftly complain, the government of the United States, after the underligned minister plenipotentiary fhall have traced the catalogue of grievances of the French Republic, will not be surprised to see The Executive Directory manifesting their too just discontents.
When Europe rose up against the Republic at its birth, menaced it with all the horrors of war and famine; when on every fide the French could not calculate upon any but enemies, their thoughts turned towards America: a sweet sentiment then mingled itself with those proud sentiments which the presence of danger, and the desire of repelling it, produced in their hearts. In America they saw friends. Those who went to brave tempeits and death upon the ocean forgot all dangers, in order to indulge the hope of visiting that American continent, where, for the firit time, the French colours had been displayed in favour of liberty. Under the guarantee of the law of nations, under the protecting thade of a bolerin treaty, they expected to find in the ports of the United States an asylum as fure as at home: they thought, if I may use the expreffion, there to find a second country. The French government thought as they did. O hope, worihy of a faithful people, how haft thou been deceived! So far from offer. ing the French the fuccours which friendship might have given without compromising it, the American government, in this respect, violated the letter of treaties.
The 17th article of the treaty of amity and commerce of 1778 ftates, that French veflels of war, and those of the United States, as well as those which shall have been armed for war, by individuals of the two states, may freely conduct, where they pleafe, the prizes they fhall have made upon their enemies, without being subject to any Admiralty or other duty; without the faid veílels, on entering into the harbours of France, or of the United States, being liable to be arrested or seized, or the officers of those places taking cognizance of the validity of the said prizes; which niay depart and be conducted freely and in full liberty to the places expressed in their commillions, which the captains of the faid vefsels thall be obliged to fhew; and that, on the contrary, no fhelter or refuge shall be given to those who Thall have made prizes upon the French or Americans; and that, if they should be forced by stress of weather or the danger of the sea to enter, they thall be made to depart as soon as poshble.
In contempt of these stipulations, the French privateers have been arrested in the United States, as well as their prizes; the tribunals have taken cognizance of the validity or invalidity of Those prizes. It were vain to seek to justify those proceedings under the pretext of the right of vindicating the compromised neutrality of the United States. The facts about to be stated will prove that this pretext has been the source of shocking persecutions against the French privateers, and that the conduct of the federal government has been but a series of violations of the 19th article of the treaty of 1778.
On ihe 4th of August, 1793, a circular letter of the secretary of the treasury was sent to all the collectors of the customs. It accompanied regulations adopted by the president, prohibiting all armaments in favour of the belligerent powers. These regulations immediately acquired the force of law, and the agents of the government and the tribunals concurred in their execution. They gave them a retrospective effect, and caused to be seized, in the ports of the United States, the armed vessels and prizes which had come in prior to that time. But even before these regulations, adopted by the president, had established any rule whatever upon the prohibition of armaments, the tribunals had already, by order of the government, assumed the cognizance of prizes made by French vessels. (No 1.) One of the predecessors of the undersigned protested against this, but in vain. The tribunals still continue their prosecutions.
On the 3d of December, 1793, the president asked of Congress a law, confirming the measures contained in the letter from the secretary of the treasury above mentioned (No. 2.) This law was pailed the 5th of June, 1794. What was its result ? In consequence of this law the greater part of the French priva- . teers have been arrefted, as well as their prizes, not upon formal depositions, not upon establithed teftimony, not upon a necessary body of proofs, but upon the simple information of the consul of one of the powers at war with the French Republic; frequently upon that of sailors of the enemy powers; sometimes according to the orders of governors, but often upon the demand of the district attornies, who assert, upon principles avowed by the government (No. 3), that their conviction was sufficient to authorize them, without complaint.or regular information, to cause the privateers to be prosecuted in virtue of the law above-mentioned, (No. 4).
When the ministers of the Republic have asked justice of the government for the vexations experienced by the privateers, in contempt of the 17th article of the treaty, they have never been able to obtain satisfaction.
Thus when, on the 9th Fructidor, third year (26th August, 1794), the predecessor of the underligned addressed a complaint to the government on this subject, the secretary of state answered, on the 3d of September, 1794, by a phrase indicative of delay.
Thus when the same minister, on the 27th Vendemiaire, 3d year ( 17th October, 1794), reminded the secretary of state of the means he had proposed to him for putting an end to the measures adopted against the French privateers ; when he caused him to sce that this means, which confilt in requiring security from those who claimed the prizes as illegal, would prevent the enemies of the Republic from instituting so many suits, of which they themfelves perceived the injustice ; he obtained no other answer than that his proposition relative to securities was inadmisible. Vol. V. Mm