Gambar halaman

publick of Genoa, two hundred and sixty-one, similar vessels. With Holland, two hundred and fifty-three, similar vessels. In a word, with all the states of which I have spoken, two thou. sand three hundred and sixty-eight vessels, employed in indi. rect commerce, and whose tonnage amounts to two hundred and thirty thousand six hundred tons; which valued at thirty-six per ton of freight one with another, amount to eight millions three hundred and one thousand six hundred livres carried off with impunity, in one year, from our carrying trade, merely from the want of a navigation act in France, without counting upon the considerable advantages which would otherwise result from it, for her industry and commerce, for ship building in her ports, and for the employment of the whole or even the half of these two thousand three hundred and sixty-eight intermediate vessels.

It must then appear plainly to the conviction of every person, that nothing would contribute more to the prosperity of our navigation, and consequently to every branch of our commerce and industry, than the adoption of an act, which, by severely excluding all foreigners who hitherto have forcibly taken from our fellow citizens the richest portion, if I may so express myself, of their patrimony, would in the same proportion increase the amount of their direct relations with foreign nations.

Let us hasten then citizens, to restore to our country all her rights, by adopting in this respect, a grand system, worthy of all that we have done for liberty.

If, at the cpoch at which I now speak, our navigation is pro- , portionally more languishing than that of England was, when ihe genius of Cromwell gave her that so renowned act, let us hope that by consecrating it in our maritime legislation, our navigation will in a short time acquire the same degree of splen. dour as that of our rivals. With more than two hundred and fifty leagues of coast on the ocean, and the channel, and more than one hundred on the Mediterranean, with ports as secure as extensive and commodious, with an infinite number of havens, of dock yards, of manufactures of every kind, with an immensity of people, as enterprising as industrious, with incalculable territorial riches, and a mass of colonial commodities, superior to that of all the powers of Europe united, and above all, with a free and republican constitution, let us hope that France, freed from the yoke of the feudal system, and that of the fiscal, inseparably connected with it; delivered from her kings, her nobles, her priests, raised to the happy condition of depending on those laws only, which are made by herself, and not obliged to receive them from any power on earth ; let us hope, I say, that, in such a state of things, France, with an act of navigation, vould behold the rapid envelopment of all the seeds of publick and private prosperity which she contains in her bosom. Let us also hope that the decree you are about to pass, will prove

more efficacious for your obtaining a peace with the belligerent maritime powers, than if they were to lose one hundred of their best vessels; and as to those, who at this moment preserve circumspect neutrality towards you, be persuaded that the inevitable effect of your navigation act, will be the attaching of them to you by indissoluble ties. All will be eager to seek an alliance with that European power, from whom they will derive most benefit, by the suppression of indirect navigation, and the immensity of its consumers. Every one, from the moment of the promulgation of your decree, will pray, and perhaps make use of secret efforts io procure you an advantageous peace, which doubtless at present, they have some interest in preventing ; and besides your independence, your political liberty, the establishment of your republican constitution, will be to them as much as to yourselves—a subject of triumph and general victory.

The navigation act, as I have already said, is the basis of the commercial constitution of the Republick ; or rather, it is in this respect a true constitutional aci. All the other laws upon maritime navigation, should only be viewed as corollaries of this act, provisions as to the manner of its execution ; in a word, merely regulating laws.

The latter may be successively presented to you by your committees. The most interesting of these are relative to the tonnage of vessels, upon the means of multiplying ship building, and of bringing them to more perfection ; upon the forms of licenses and passports ; upon the ineans of discovering and preventing francisations, simulées, &c.; and above all, upon a better tariff of rates of navigation, without which the constitutional act, in this respect, cannot produce all the effect which we have a right to expect from it.

Your committee will now confine itself to laying before you the project of that act, By prohibiting all intermediate navigation between you and each foreign nation, it extends this prohibition, not only to the transportation of the commodities, merchandises, or productions imported, of their growth, production or manufacture, but also to the transportation of those imported from the ordinary ports of sale, and of the first exportation. It is necessary that such a prohibition should be as extensive as it could be made, without which a navigation act' would be. come a mere illusory measure. The English from whom we borrow this system, have given it that extension ; and indeed they are to be applauded for it.

The necessity of determining the requisite qualities for en. joying the privileges of a French vessel, that is to say, for the exclusive admission to carry on our direct navigation, in concurrence with the vessels of the people, from whom we receive our articles of supply; this necessity, I say, was an immediate consequence of the prohibition of all indirect navigation. The

VOL. I. 50

[ocr errors]

project of the act regulates these qualities; it also determines the only evidence by which we could know the vessels of the nation with whom we may trade ; and it is easily perceived, that if we did not impose in this respect, those conditions which are most conformable to our interest, every day crowds of intermediate yessels would borrow the flag of such nation; and we should have employed but half the means for abolishing indirect navigation. Besides, these conditions have a tendency to favour the direct navigation and commerce of such pation. By them it is put in the happy necessity, of multiplying by every means, its ship building, nauticks, and maritime population ; and if, in the meanwhile, its own vessels and mariners are insufficient for the exportation of its commodities and merchandises, then it belongs to us alone to supply that deficiency, and our navigation would then receive a further increase from this source, and our commerce an additional degree of prosperity.

Thus every thing concurs, citizens, to induce you to adopt the project of the navigation act, which I am instructed to present to you. It is a national right you are about to proclaim, after having solemnly recognised the sacred rights of man and of citizen, and founded the freest constitution under the globe.

If all nations ought to recognise the equality, the liberty of nature and the safety of society in the exposition of the doctrines of that immortal declaration, all the maritime nations ought to recognise the rights of property in the dispositions of our navigation act. Would to heaven that all had the courage or the wisdom to follow our example. Then there would be no exclusive privilege between one nation and another; and were the act of navigation adopted by all the maritime powers of the globe, it would in some degree realize that indefinite commercial liberty, which without doubt is the first element of commerce, but which at present in particular, is not suitable to the interests of any commercial nation.

With so many powerful inducements to decree an act of pavigation, you doubtless will not in the existing circumstances, be withheld by the apprehension that such a disposition would in. jure the obtaining of supplies for the Republick which they are obliged to draw forth from foreigners. It is an acknowledged principle with the English themselves, and constantly practised among them, that in time of war neutral vessels are excepted, of right, from the dispositions of the navigation act. This act therefore will not add to those restrictions which the maritime war at present imposes on the maritime transportation of our exchanges or of our supplies ; and neutral vessels will continue to bring us every thing which we dare not confide to our own.

Neither will you be deterred by an apprehension of injuring the personal interests of some hundreds of cosmopolite capital. isis, of selfish commissioners, for whom the want of a navigation act in France, has been the principal, the most fruitful source of their colossal fortunes. The general interest of the country, that of her labourers, of her manufacturers, of her artists, of her seamen, her merchants, and all her sans culottes, to whom you will assure employment and bread— These reasons should de. termine you— These reasons should influence you exclusively in your deliberations. All will bless you ; all will look upon the act of navigation, as one of the most precious gifts you could bestow on your countrymen, next to the constitutional charter which you have just digested. When Oliver Croniwell had, through the medium of his parliament, established a navigation act, all the ports of England manifested, by illuminations, the joy which that memorable act gave them; and the English people forgot for a moment, that they received this gift from the hand of a tyrant. How great then ought the transports of our fellow citizens to be, when they receive your decree from the same hands, which have given them the declaration of rights, and the French constitution !

May France be enabled, in the end, therefore, to boast also of having a navigation act; may it hence forward be the basis of her policy, as it is about being that of her commerce. May she soon become more rich, more flourishing, more happy, than she has been under the most brilliant reigns of her despots, and never treat with foreign powers, without her constitution in one hand, and her navigation in the other; and astonished Europe will doubtless see her merchants become one day, her only ambassadors, like those of London and Amsterdam formerly, negotiating at foreign courts, the most important interests of their country, and after having weighed the destinies of the two worlds, and secured the prosperity and glory of their country, reassuming the peaceable pursuits of commerce. The following is the project of the decree.

Act of Navigation of the French Republick. The National Convention after having heard the report of their

committees of marine, of commerce, and of publick safety, considering that the French nation has the incontestable right of securing by every method, the prosperity of her agriculture, commerce and industry; that nothing has a more direct tendency to this end than a navigation act; and that in the solemn declaration of this act, she only makes use of the same right which she acknowledges to belong to all other nations, decrees as follows:

Article 1. That no foreign commodities, productions, or merchandises shall be imported but directly by French vessels, or those belonging to the inhabitants of the country of which they are the growth, produce or manufacture, or to the inhabi. tants of the country of the ordinary ports of sale and first exportation ; the officers and three fourths of the crew of a foreign vessel being of the country whose flag the vessel bears ; the

whole on pain of confiscation of the vessel aud cargo, and a fiac of three thousand livres, jointly and severally against the owners, consignees, and agents of the vessel and cargo, the captain and lieutenant of the vessel.

11. That foreign vessels shall not transport from one French port to another French port, any commodities, productions or merchandises of the growth, produce or manufacture of France, the Colonies or possessions of France, under the penalties declared in article 1st.

III. That after the 10th of August next, no vessel shall be reputed French, nor enjoy the privileges of a French vessel, unless such vessel shall have been built in the Colonies or possessions of France, or declared a good prize taken from an enemy, or confiscated for contravention of the laws of France, and unless the officers and three fourths of the crew are Frenchmen.



CONGRESS. JAN. 20, 1794.

HAVING already laid before you a letter of the 16th of Au. ĝust, 1793, from the Secretary of State to our Minister at Paris, stating the conduct, and urging the recall of the Minister Plenipotentiary of the Republick of France, I now com. municate to you, that his conduct has been unequivocally disapproved, and that the strongest assurances have been given that his recall should be expedited without delay.





JAN. 22, 1794. I FORWARD to you, extracts from the last advices from our minister in London ; as being connected with communications already made.


« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »