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- public officer, Mr. Harrison, is supported in his proceedings by " the laws and usages of this country, upon such evidence and in“ formation as in the case referred to were produced.”
(No.4.) In virtue of this law the tribunals were only authorised to decide on cases in which the neutrality of the United States thall have been compromitted. Yet these tribunals conceived they had a right to pronounce upon prizes made by the French, in almost an indefinite manner. In the affair of Glass and Gibbs against the ship Betsey, the decision of which has been printed, the supreme court pronounced, that the tribunals could decide whether a prize belonged to enemies or to neutrals. In the affair of Joost Janson against the Dutch ship Vraụw Catharina Magdalena, it was decided that the naturalization granted in the territories of France to American citizens, during the war, could not give them the right, either of serving or of commanding on board of French privateers; that the prizes made by such, although legally commissioned, were not valid; a distinction is established between a legal and an illegal privateer ; it was judged that they had a right to pronounce on this legality, and consequently on the validity of the prizes. It was finally decided, that a prize made at sea with the assistance of an illegal privateer was void, and should be restored.
It was according to these first decisions of the supreme court that the district attorney of Virginia wrote officially, on the 28th of March, 1794, to the vice-consul at Norfolk-" No vessel can be « condemned as prize but in district courts, which are the proper * admiralties of the United States." The enemies of France understood, or did not understand this mode ; but they availed themselves of it; and in order to cause French privateers to be arrested, they had recourse to the law of the 5th of June, 1794.
At this period, however, the law had put into the hands of government a sufficient power for preventing the arming and equiping of privateers in the ports of the United States. By the letter of the fecretary of the treasury of the 4th of August, 1793, the collectors of the customs were authorised, and even required, to visit, in the strictest manner, not only all privateers, but all vessels entering op going out of American ports. The law of the 5th of June authorised the president to support the exercise of these functions with military force. Of course they did not neglect to visit, with the greatest rigour, all French vessels, privateers and others, during their continuance in the ports of the United States, and at their departure. They did not quit these ports but under the eye and with the express permission of the officers of the government ; for it had forbidden the collectors to clear them, if they committel the least violation on the neutrality of the United States, in which cafe they might be seized and confiscated. Yet, whether they had entered the ports of the United States armed, and also went out armed; or had since been armed for war in French ports, Vou. V.
scarcely did one of their prizes enter but she was arrested by order of the federal court.
The proceedings were instituted and pursued without any of the forms for protecting citizens. As the undersigned minister plenipotentiary has said, the assertion of an enemy of the Republic was fufficient for causing a prize to be seized, often the privateer which had brought her in, and sometimes for the arrest of her captain no proof was required from the enemy consul, who instigated the arseft; he was not obliged to give secyrity for the damages which might result from the procedure, if it were unfounded; the captain was not allowed to remain in possession of his property, on giving security for its value ; the prizes were not valued; they simply placed them in the hands of the officers of justice ; rarely were they permitted to be fold; and then the fale was made with flowness, and not till the consent of the two parties was obtained. In fine, when with much delay and expense, notwithstanding the thifts of a crafıy chicanery, the complainants proved nothing they advanced, the prizes were adjudged to the captors, but refused indemnification for damages and loiles occasioned by this seizure.
The undersigned minister plenipotentiary knows but two affairs, that of la Nostra Senora del Carmen, at Rhode Island, and that of la Princesse des Ajuries, at New York, where security was given to the party complaining, and where damages and interests werç allowed to the captors.
Yet the tribunals have always allowed damages to the captured, when they have declared the prizes illegal. The least pretext was sufficient to obtain from a tribunal the arrest of a prize; it was sufficient to alledge that the privateer had taken one or two cannon, one or two barrels of powder, opened fome portholes in the territory of the United States.
In the affair of the two prizes of the French privateer Les Citoyens de Marseille, which entered the port of Philadelphia, armed and commissioned, repaired in the fame port, and sent out under the eyes of the government, the only thing in question was, that some portholes were pretended to have been opened in the vessel after her departure from Philadelphia ; the court of Charleston was of opinion that the holes had been opened, and condemned the two prizes. The superior courts did not adopt this opinion, and the first sentence was reverfed; but after how long a time, how much care, fatigue, pain, and expense?
In the affair of the Princesse des Asturies, at New York, as will be seen hereafter, only two cannon and a score of fufees were in question ; behold what is called an armament, behold how words are abused!
Prizes have been arrested under still more frivolous pretexts. The privateer La Parisienne had infringed a revenue law of the United States, she was seized and condemned by the district court. This tribunal; doubtless agreeable to rules prescribed by
the law, had restored this vessel to her owners, on making them pay her value. The privateer, after having executed the sentence of the court, went out and made two considerable prizes ;-one was fent into Charleston, and the other into Savanna. They were both arrested at the instance of the English consuls, under the pretext that the tribunal had acted illegally, by restoring the confiscated privateer ;—that notwithstanding this restitution, and the payment of her value to the treasurer, she had always remained the property of the United States, and could not make any lawful prize. This ridiculous assertion was seriously opposed in the district and circuit courts, and in the supreme court of the United States; at the close of the proceedings, which lasted near two years, the prizes were adjudged to the captors, but without allowing them damages.
In like manner have been treated the rich and numerous prizes of the French privatcers La Mere Michelle, Le Brutus, Le General Lavaux, and Le Vengeur. The captors have gained their causes in three courts, and have not obtained damages.
Were it necessary to cite here all the vexatious proceedings commenced against French vessels, the undersigned minifter plenipotentiary would be obliged to write a volume. He contents himself with adding, to what he has just said, the affair of the Vengeance and that of the Caffius.
Affair of the Vengeance. At the beginning of 1794 the predecessor of the undersigned charged the captain of La Dorade, a French galliot, with a particular million for St. Domingo. He ordered him to go to New York with his galliot, to take some powder, which was at Sandy Hook, on board the frigate La Semillante, belonging to the Republie, and which made part of her equipment, and to carry them to General Leveaux. This vestel had formerly been armed for war; she had been built with portholes, consequently the attracted the particular attention of the government. Many difficulties were thrown in her way; but finally, after having fubmitted to all the requisite inspections, the failed with a formal clearance from the collector of the customs of Philadelphia. She went to New York, where the captain acquitted himself of his mission, and thence to Port de Paix, where the powder was delivered to General Leveaux. At that place this galliot was sold to an inhabitant of St. Domingo, who armed her, equipped her completely, partly at Port de Paix, and partly at Cape François. She was called La Vengeance, and given to Captain Berard, as commander, who failed from St. Domingo with a commission in good form, and a crew entirely French, to cruize against the enemies of the Republic. A few days after her departure the captured a Spanish vesle called the
Princese Princesse des Afuries, laden with a rich cargo, and carried her into the port of New York, in the summer of 1795.
The Spanish consul, availing himself of the facility given him by the law of the 5th of June, 1794, had the prize arrested, under the pretext that the privateer had been armed in the United States, and we saw officers of the government appear to defend his assertion; Mr. Harrison, attorney of the district of New York, and Mr. Troup, clerk of the district and circuit ccurts, to which appertained the decision of the cause.
It was under these auspices that the prize was arrested, and the captain of the privateer saw himself obliged to defend her against the allegation of a pretended armament. But it was not fufficient
to have arrested the prize, they must also attack the privateer. - This did not fail to happen. Shortly after Mr. Harrison, without laying aside his office of attorney for the captured, but acting in this instance in the name of the United States, informed against La Ven. geance, and required her arrest under the same pretext which had been used for arresting her prize. This information was not founded on any affidavit or material proof. But Mr. Attorney, according to his letter to the secretary of state, had no need of any; he had seen in the hands of the Spanish consul documents fufficient for having the prize condemned. In fine, not content with these measures, the same attorney, some time after, the two other causes being still pending, exhibited a second information against the privateer, and had her arrested anew, for having exported arms in violation of a law of the United States, which was in force when the Vengeance failed from New York. This information was made on the fimple declaration of Mr. Giles, marshal of the court, who, as informer, was to share part of the confiscation. So that all the officers of the district court (except the judge) were interested in the condemnation of the privateer or her prize. It is well to observe, that during the course of the process the monies arising from the sale of the prize were deposited in the hands of the clerk (attorney for the Spaniards), those arising from the sale of the prize in the hands of the marshal (informer and interested in the confiscation);- so that their interest was to spin out these causes by means of appeals; and so it has happened.
As this last information is here principally in question, it is proper to enter into some details on the fubject. It appeared in the allegation, that the privateer had exported from the United States two cannon, twenty muskets, and fifty barrels of powder.
Two cannon and twenty muskets could scarcely be an object of commercial speculation. The existence of the cannon has never been proved, and certainly whatever muskets were found on board were only for the defence of the vessel, without a wish to infringe the laws of the American government. The powder in truth was
of the greatest consequence, but the consul of New York hastened to give his declaration under oath, and to prove, by witnesses, that this powder had been taken from on board La Semillante, and made part of her equipment. Mr. Harrison did not yield to this evidence.
However, the three causes went on; but the yellow fever, which took place at New York, fpun them out to considerable length. The judgment of the district court was not given till November. In the mean time an exprefs, which Captain Berard had sent to St. Domingo, on the first arrest of his prize, had returned with papers, proving in the most convincing manner, that the Vengeur had arrived at Port de Paix without any armament or equipment whatever ; and that she had been sold, armed, and equipped wholly, and commissioned as a privateer, on the territory of the Republic. Thefe documents were, certificates of the general, the ordonnateur, &c. of the greater part of the principal officers of St. Domingo ; the accounts of armament attested by all the providers [fournisseurs], &c. the whole executed in the most authentic form.
The undersigned hastened to communicate these documents to the secretary of state of the United States, and to request that he would order the attorney of New York district to stay the proceedings he had inqituted in the name of the government; there was nothing done with them, and Mr. Harrison continued his
In fine, the moment came for deciding these three causes. They were pleaded with much preparation before the district court of New York. The privateer was acquitted of the charge of illegally arming, and the prize adjudged to the captor. Mr. Harrison did not appeal as to the privateer; but the cause of the prize was carried to the circuit court, and finally to the supreme court; and these two tribunals confirmed the sentence of the district court,
As to the exportation, the judge was of opinion that the vessel should be condemned for it; and grounded his sentence only on the article of twenty muskets. Some of the attornies for the privateer had considered it as of fo little consequence, that they had not conceived it would be brought in question ; and had omitted to speak of it in their pleadings. It was natural to appeal from such a sentence ; the conful of New York was the appellant, and required, agreeable to a law of Congress, that the vessel should be given up to him under security, during the appeal; but he could not obtain it; the vessel was sold for less than a tenih part of the cost of her armament, and the money was deposited till the conclusion of the process.
The circuit court, as was expected, set aside the sentence which condemned the privateer ; but Mr. Harrison, not content