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“ vernment will not be in the rear of its obliga« tions.” To that has the reparation demanded by the Republic been limited.
What are we to think of these delays, when we see the officers of the government acting with so much activity against the French, on the slightest suspicion that they have violated the neutrality“ when in his letter of 29th April 1794, the secretary
of state answers the complaints of the English minister_“ We have received no intelligence of " the particular facts to which you refer : but to
prevent all unnecessary circuity in first inquiring
into them, and next transmitting to this city “ the result, the proper instructions will be given
to act, without further directions.” How did the federal government conduct itself towards the autumn of 1794 ? The English frigate Terpsichore took the privateer La Montagne in the port of Norfolk. The French vice-consul claimed the execution of the treaty of the governor of Virginia: the governor answered him, that he would have the necessary investigation made, and would afterwards take the proper measures.
The predecessor of the undersigned then interposed with the federal government; and the secretary of state assured him, that he wrote to the governor of Virginia to have justice rendered. But this justice was limited to investigations made with such slowness, that five months after, this affair was not finished ; and on the 24th February, 1795, the secretary of state contented himself with sending to the predecessor of the undersigned, the dispatches of the lieutenant-governor, dated 10th October, 1794, by which he announces that he ordered the coinmandant of the militia of Norfolk to make the necessary inquiries for enabling the executive of Virginia, to render to the Republic the justice it had a right to expect. The result of these in
quiries is not known. However, the fact about which the minister Fauchet complained to the secretary of state was notorious, and painful researches were not necessary to convince himself of it. Do we not find in this proceeding a formal desire to elude the treaties, and to favour the English ?
If the government of the United States had wished to maintain itself in that impartiality which its duties prescribed, if it had wished freely to execute the ireaties, it would not have waited every time that the English infringed them, for the minister to solicit its justice : should it not have given instructions so precise, that the governors of the states and subaltern officers of the federal government might know what duties they had to fulfil, in order to maintain the execution of treaties? Why have the most energetic orders (such as the secretary of state, Randolph, mentions) been given, when the support of the neutrality, inviolate in favour of the English, came in question? Why have the measures taken by the federal government operated with so much slowness when France was interested? Why, in fine, have the multiplied claims of her ministers never produced the redress of the grievances of which they complained ?
When the predecessor of the undersigned minster plenipotentiary claimed the execution of the
17th article of the treaty, interdicting the entry into the American ports of English vessels which should have made prizes upon the French, when he cited this simple and formal stipulation :-“ On " the contrary, neither asylum nor refuge shall be “ given in the ports or harbours of France, or of " the United States, to vessels which shall have “ made prizes of the French or Americans; and “ should they be obliged to enter by tempest, or “ danger of the sea, all proper means shall be used “ to make them depart as soon as possible ;” the
secretary of state, in order to avoid shutting the American ports against the English, interrupted this article in their favour. 66 But it would be un“ candid to conceal from you the construction
which we have hitherto deemed the true one. “ The first part of the 17th article relates to French
ships of war and privateers entering our ports “ with their prizes ; the second contracts the situ“ ation of the enemies of France, by forbidding “ such as shall have made prize of the French;
intimating from this connexion of the two “ clauses, that the vessels forbidden are those wbich “ bring their prizes with them. It has been con" sidered that this section of the treaty was impar“ tially destined to the with-holding of protection,
or succour, to the prizes themselves; had it been “ otherwise, it would have been superfluous, to “ have prohibited from sailing what they have “ taken in the ports of the United States.”
He said, moreover, in his letter of the 29th of May, 1795–" But on the 3d of August the pre6 sident declared his construction of that treaty to " be, that no public armed vessels were thereby « forbidden from our waters, except those which " should have made prize of the people or pro
perty of France coming with their prizes.” But how is it possible to find, in the stipulations of the treaty, the sense given to them by the government of the United States ? This expression of the treaty, “ which shall have made prizes,” is general, and applies to all capturing vessels, whether they enter the ports of the United States with prizes, or enter them alone, after having made prizes. It is evident, that the government adds to the letter of the treaty in this circumstance, and is it not astonishing, that it admits a construction of the treaty, when it expects to find a meaning disadvantageous to France, and in other instances opposes all construc
rión, when this would be favourable to the Republic. But has it the right of construing the treaty, of changing, of its own accord, the sense of a clear and precise stipulation, without the consent and concurrence of the other contracting party? Doubtless not ; especially, when, by so doing, it wounds her interests.
The secretary of state, by the 22d article, pretends to support his construction of the 17th article. What does this 22d article contain ? A prohibition of the enemies of France and of the United States from arming in the respective ports of the two powers, of selling their prizes, or of discharging all or part of their cargo there. This article, therefore, applies to the prizes; whilst the 17th applies to the capturing vessels. Did it not exist, the enemies of France or of the United States, might send their prizes into the respective ports of the two powers, without conducting them there themselves: the 17th article, containing only a prohibitory arrangement for the capturing vessels, could not prohibit them from doing this. It was necessary then to have recourse to a formal prohibition : besides, as the vessels which have made prizes on the French or Americans, are admitted into the ports of France or of the United States, in cases of tempest or dangers of the sea, they might, in this case, have conceived theinselves authorized to dispose of their prizes, to sell them, or to discharge their cargoes; it was necessary, therefore, to take this right from them in a positive manner; it was necessary to prevent them from benefitting by a stipulation made in favour of humanity: this is the end answered by the 22d article, which is not superfluous, as the secretary of state maintains; but, on the contrary, contains a distinct stipulation from that of the 17th. It is then evident from this, that in the cases above
cited by the undersigned, the stipulations of the 17th article have been violated. They have been equally so, by the admission, in sundry ports, of the Thetis and Hussar frigates, which captured la Prévoyante and la Raison, French store-ships, and by admitting, in the last instance, this same ship Ja Raison, prize to the Thetis, into the ports of the United States.
But admitting, for a moment, the construction gratuitously given by the secretary of state to the 17th article of the treaty of 1778; this article has not the less been violated, when the Argonaut, which had quitted Hampton roads in order to capture l’Espérance, was permitted to enter with that prize; when the Terpsichore was suffered to bring in the privateer la Montagne. In vain were sought, in the resources of a captious and false logic, the means of excusing such conduct. The facts speak, and every upright mind, not blinded by passion, will necessarily yield to their evidence. Yet the prohibitory stipulation of the admission of prizes made by her enemies, is the only advantage which France expected to enjoy, after having wrought and guaranteed the independence of the United States, at a time when she might, as the price of that very independence, have granted them less liberal conditions.
These wrongs of the American government towards the Republic, just stated by the undersigned minister plenipotentiary, will soon be aggravated by new ones. It was a little matter only to allow the English to avail themselves of the advantages of our treaty; it was necessary to assure these to them by the aid of a contract, which might serve at once as a reply to the claims of France, and as peremptory motives for refusals, the true cause of which it was requisite incessantly to disguise to her under specious pretexts.