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have since the 20th of May last forbidden the entry of French vessels into their harbours, and it is also true that the penalty of confiscation attaches to the violation of this law. But in what respect does this offend France ? Will she refuse to us the right of regulating commerce within our own ports ? Or will she deny that the law in question is a regulation merely municipal ! Examine it both as to object and means. What does it more than forbid American ships from going into the ports of France, and French ships from coming into those of the United States ? And why this prohibition ? To avoid injury and insult; to escape that lawlessness which is declared to be "a forced consequence of the decrees of the British council.” If then its object be purely defensive, what are its means ? Simply a law, previously and generally promulgated, ope. rating solely within the territory of the United States, and punishing alike the infractors of it, whether citizens of the said state's or others. And what is this but the exercise of a right, common to all nations, of excluding at their will foreign commerce, and of enforcing that exclusion? Can this be deemed a wrong to France ? Can this be regarded as a legitimate cause of reprisal on the part of a power, who makes it the first duty of nations to defend their sovereignty, and who even denationalizes the ships of those who will not subscribe to the opinion ?
But it has been said that the United States have nothing to complain of against France."
Was the capture and condemnation of a ship driven on, the shores of France by stress of weather and the perils of the sea, nothing? Was the seizure and sequestration of many cargoes brought to France in ships violating no law, and admitted to regular entry at the imperial custom houses, nothing? Was the violation of our maritime rights, consecrated as they have been by the solemn forms of a publick treaty, nothing? In a word, was it nothing that our ships were burnt on the high seas without other offence than that of belonging to the United States, or other apology than was to be found in the enhanced safety of the perpetrator? Surely if it be the duty of the United States io resent the theoretical usurpations of the British orders of November, 1807, it cannot be less their duty to complain of the daily and practical outrages on the part of
France. It is indeed true, that were the people of the United States destitute of policy, of honour and of energy, (as has been insinuated.) they might have adopted a sys. tem of discrimination between the two great belligerents; they might have drawn imaginary lines between the first and second aggressor; they might have resented in the one a conduct to which they tamely submitted in the other; and in this way have patched up a compromise between honour and interest, equally mean and disgraceful. But such was not the course they pursued, and it is perhaps a necessary consequence of the justice of their measures, that they are at this day an independent nation. But I will not press this part of my subject; it would be affrontful to your excellency (knowing as you do, that there are not less than one hundred American ships within his majesty's possession, or that of his allies) to multiply proofs, thai the United States have grounds of complaint against France.
My attention is necessarily called to another part of the same paragraph, which immediately follows the quotation already made. “As soon,” says your excellency, “ as his majesty was informed of this measure, (the non-intercourse law) it became his duty to retaliate on the American vessels, not only within his own territories, but also within the countries under his influence. In the ports of Holland, Spain, Italy and Naples, the American vessels have been seized, because the Americans had seized French vessels."
These remarks divide themselves into the following heads:
1. The right of his majesty to seize and confiscate American vessels within his own territories.
2. The right to do so within the territories of his allies; and
3. The reason of that right, viz. because Americans had seized French vessels.
The first of these subjects has been already examined, and the second must be decided like the first, since his majesty's rights within the limits of his ally cannot be greater than within his own. If then it has been shown, that the non-intercourse law was merely defensive in its object; that it was but intended to guard against that state of violence which unhappily prevailed; that it was re
stricted in its operation to the territory of the United States, and that it was duly promulgated there and in Europe before execution, it will be almost unnecessary to repeat, that a law of such description cannot authorize a measure of reprisal, equally sudden and silent in its enactment and application, founded on no previous wrong, productive of no previous complaint, and operating beyond the limits of his majesty's territories, and within those of sovereigns who had even invited the commerce of the United States to their ports.
It is, therefore, the third subject only, the reason of the right, which remains to be examined; and, with regard to it, I may observe, that if the alleged fact, which forms this reason, be unfounded, the reason itself fails, and the right with it. In this view of the business, I may be permitted to inquire, when and where any seizure of a French vessel has taken place, under the non-intercourse law? And, at the same time, to express my firm persuasion, that no such seizure has been made; a persuasion, founded alike on the silence of the government and of the journals of the country, and still more, on the positive declaration of several well informed and respectable persons, who have left America as late as the 26th of December last. My conclusion, therefore, is, that no French vessel having violated the law, no seizure of such vessel has occurred; and that the report, which has reached Paris, is probably founded on a circumstance altogether unconnected with the nonintercourse law or its operation.
Though far from wishing to prolong this letter, I cannot close it without remarking the great and sudden change wrought in his majesty's sentiments, with regard to the defensive system adopted by the United States.
The law which is now believed to furnish ground, for reprisal, was first communicated to his majesty in June or July last, and certainly did not then excite any suspicion of feeling unfriendly to the American government. Far from this, its communication was immediately followed by overtures of accommodation, which, though productive of no positive arrangement, did not make matters worse than they found them.
On the 22d of August last, I was honoured with a full exposition of the views and principles which had governed, and which should continue to govern, his majesty's
policy in relation to the United States, and in this we do not find the slightest trace of complaint against the provisions of the law in question.
At a period later than the 22d of August, an American ship, destined to a port of Spain, was captured by a French privateer. An appeal was made to his majesty's minister of war, who, having submitted the case, received orders to liberate all American vessels, destined to Spanish ports, which had not violated the imperial decrees. Another American ship, at a point of time still later than the capture of the preceding, was brought into the port of Bayonne, but having violated no law of his majesty, was acquitted by his council of prizes. And, lastly, in the long conversation I had the honour of holding with your excellency, on the 25th of January, no idea of reprisal was maintained by you, nor suspected by me; but, on the contrary, in speaking of the seizure of American property, in Spain, you expressly declared, that it was not a confiscation. ,
Can proofs be more conclusive, that, from the first promulgation of the law down to the 25th of January last, nothing in the nature of a reprisal was contemplated by his majesty ?
What circumstance may have since occurred, to produce a change in his opinion, I know not; but the confidence I feel in the open and loyal policy of his majesty, altogether excludes the idea, that the rule was merely found for the occasion, and made to justify seizures, not otherwise justifiable. I pray your excellency to accept, &c. &c.
JOHN ARMSTRONG. His Excellency the Duke of Cadore, &c. &c. &c.
Extracts of a Letter from General Armstrong to Mr. Smith.
Paris, April 4, 1810. “ After seven weeks detention in England, the John Adams has at length got back to France. She arrived in the roads of Havre on the 28th ult.
"I informed M. Champagny-1st. That Mr. Pinkney had not been able to send by this conveyance the result of his application to the British government concerning the blockades of France prior to the Berlin decrecs; but that he
hoped to be able to send it in a few days by another con. veyance: and 2d. That if he (M.Champagny) had any thing to communicate which would have the effect of changing the present relations of the two countries, and which he wished to be early known to the government of the United States, he would do well to let me know it within twentyfour hours, as the messenger would leave Paris within that time. To this message I received from him the following answer—that for some days past nothing in the nature of business, and unconnected with the marriage of the emperor, could be transacted; and that for some days to come the same cause of delay would continue to operate; that my letters were still before the emperor, and that he would seize the first moment to get some decision in relation to them.' Thus you see every thing is
yet in air.”
Copy of Mr. Pinkney's Letter to General Armstrong,
London, March 23, 1810. DEAR SIR, -Although I have detained the corvette much longer than I wished, I am not yet able to send you the result of my application to this government concerning the British blockades of France prior to the Berlin decree. I expect to receive it in a very few days, and will immediately forward it to you by Mr. Lee, by the way of Morlaix, for it seems that the French government will not permit a messenger to land at any other port. I have the honour, &c. &c.
WM. PINKNEY. His Excellency Gen. Armstrong, &c. &c. &c.
General Armstrong to Mr. Smith. Paris, April 16, 1810.
Sir,- The John Adams being yet detained, I am able to inform you that on the 11th inst. the emperor directed the sale of all the American vessels taken in the ports of Spain, and that the money arising therefrom should be placed in his caisse privé. He has also refused to give up ihc Hero, and has ordered that the case be brought before the council of prizes, where condemnation necessarily awaits it. I send a copy of a note upon which this last