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trade had suffered and was suffering extensive injuries in the West Indies from the cruisers and agents of the French Republick; and that communications had been received from its minister here which indicated danger of a further disturbance of our commerce by its authority, and that were in other respects far from agreeable; but that I reserved for a special message, a more particular communication on this interesting subject. This communication 1 now make.
The complaints of the French minister embraced most of the transactions of our government in relation to France from an early period of the present war; which therefore it was necessary carefully to review. A collection has been formed, of letters and papers relating to those transactions, which I now lay before you, with a letter to Mr. Pinckney, our minister at Paris, containing an examination of the notes of the French minister, and such information as I thought might be useful to Mr. Pinckney in any further representations he might find necessary to be made to the French government. The immediate object of his mission was to make to that government such explanations of the principles and conduct of our own, as by manifesting our good faith, might remove all jealousy and discontent, and maintain that harmony and good understanding with the French Republick, which it has been my constant solicitude to preserve. A government which required only a knowledge of the truth to justify its measures, could not but be anxious to have this fully and frankly displayed.
From Mr. Pickering, Secretary of State, to Mr. Pinckney,
Plenipotentiary of the United States at Paris. Depart. ment of State, Jan. 16, 1797.
SIR,-In my letters of the 5th and 26th ult. I sent you two notes from Mr. Adet, the minister of the French Republick to the United States; the former dated the 27th of October, and the other the 15th of November last; and my answer to the first. The latter note, embracing numerous topicks of complaint, and going as far back as the year -793, required a particular examination of all the ransactio :3 of our government from that time to the preen. T'w: Other indispensable duties of the office prevented my entering on this examination as early as I had expected, and the current business has retarded the pursuit. The result of this examination I am now, by the direction of the President of the United States, to communicate to you. This history of our affairs you will find supported by documents, many of which were delivered to you at your departure, and the residue will be herewith trans. mitted. The remarks and reasonings on facts you will duly appreciate; and from the whole, joined with your own observations, you will be enabled, it is believed, to vindicate the United States, and to demonstrate their impartiality as a neutral nation, their fidelity in the observation of treaties, and their friendship as an ally.
The discussion on which I am entering will involve much repetition ; for the general questions and particular cases grouped together in the minister's last note, have been subjects of controversy and correspondence from May, 1793, to this day. Some other points have indeed been contended for, which the minister has now passed without notice. Why they are omitted I know not; for in these cases the United States were as positively charged with violating treaties, as in those which he has been pleased now to detail. Some of them it may be found proper to introduce, to render less imperfect the view of our relations to France.
The complaints of the French minister against the United States, have reference to three principal subjects.
1st. To the abandonment of their neutral rights to the injury of France, in not maintaining the pretended princi. ples of the modern law of nations, That free ships inake free goods, and that timber and naval stores for the equipment and armament of vessels, are not contraband of war.
2d. To violations of our treaties with France, even in their letter.
3d. To the treaty of amity and commerce between the United States and Great Britain ; which he alleges “deprives France of all the advantages stipulated in a previous treaty.” A fourth complaint is truly ingenious. The fortune of war has constrained some of the belligerent powers from enemies, to become her allies; and if the alleged abandonment of the rules of the modern law of nations, in its consequences, works an injury to those allies, from that moment France is also injured. Perhaps it
will be in time to notice this last charge when those allies themselves complain; if the answer to the first, involving the same principle, should not render such notice altogether unnecessary.
I shall now present to your view those facts and observations which will prove, we conceive, that the minister's complaints are without any just foundation.
Under the first charge, that we have not maintained, as we ought to have done, our neutral rights, it is alleged;
1st. That the position, that free ships make free goods, is an established principle of the modern law of nations, and that Great Britain, by capturing French property on board our vessels, has violated our neutral rights; and that unless we compel Great Britain to respect those rights, France will be justified in violating them.
Not to remark on the singular reasoning, that if one warring power commits an act of injustice towards a neutral and innocent nation, another warring power may law. fully commit the like injustice, we may ask what authority is adduced to show that the modern law of nations has established the principle, That free ships make free goods ? Vattel says positively, “ *that effects belonging to an enemy found on board a neutral ship, are seizable by the rights of war.” Agreeably to this long established rule of the law of nations France herself, in her marine laws, has directed that the merchandises and effects belonging to her enemies which shall be found on board neutral vessels shall be good prize. By a former law, indeed, the neutral vessels themselves, as well as the effects of her enemies on board, were declared to be good prize. Valin remarks, however, that this regulation was peculiar to France and Spain ; and that elsewhere the goods of the enemy were alone subjected to confiscation. And in the treaty of France with the city of Hamburg, in 1769, it was stipulated that “all effects, provisions and merchandise whatsoever belonging to her enemies and found on board the vessels of Hamburg should be confiscated.”
Mr. Adet remarks, that one of his predecessors, in July, 1793, applied on this subject to the government of the United States, but was unsuccessful. He must refer to Mr. Genet's letter to Mr. Jefferson, dated July 9th, 1793,* [the subject was resumed in terms still more extraordinary in his letter of July 25th, 1793,] to which Mr. Jefferson answered on the 24th, declaring his belief that it cannot be doubted but that by the general law of nations, the goods of a friend found in the vessel of an enemy are lawful prize.”—“It is true that sundry nations, desirous of avoiding the inconveniences of having their vessels stopped at sea, ransacked, carried into port and detained, under pretence of having enemy goods on board, have, in many instances, introduced, by their special treaties, another principle between them, that enemy bottoms shall make enemy goods, and friendly bottoms friendly goods; but this is altogether the effect of particular treaty, controlling, in special cases, the general principle of the law of nations, and therefore taking effect between such nations only as have so agreed to control it." And it is plain, that it was to avoid the inconveniences resulting from this general rule of the law of nations, that France and the United States stipulated, in the 23d article of their commercial treaty, “ That free ships should give freedom to goods; and that every thing should be deemed free which should be found on board the ships belonging to the subjects of either of the contracting parties, although the whole lading, or any part thereof, should appertain to the enemies of either, contraband goods being always except. ed." It is also plain that this stipulation was intended to operate (indeed it was its sole object and otherwise could have no operation at all) when one of the parties should be at war with a nation or nations with whom the other should be at peace. France, therefore, has now no right to complain if the goods of her enemies find protection on board American ships, or to pretend, that in order “ to restore the balance of neutrality to its equilibrium," she may seize on such goods: the just equilibrium between her and the United States will be restored when we are at war and she at peace; at which time the goods of our enemies will find protection on board the vessels of her citizens.
* Book 3. sec. 115. † Valin, page 250, Reg. Oct. 21, 1744, art. 5.
Valin, vol. 2. page 252, 253,
2d. It is alleged that we have abandoned the modern publick law on contraband, and by our treaty with Great Britain granted to that power, exclusively, the free carriage of articles for the equipment and armament of vessels.
* State Papers, vol. 1, p. 144.
Here as in the former case the question recurs, what is the law of nations on the point in dispute ? *Vattel defines contraband goods to be commodities particularly used in war—such are arms, military and naval stores, timber, horses and even provisions in certain junctures, when there are hopes of reducing the enemy by famine." In the treaty between France and Denmark, concluded on the 23d of August, 1742, “Tar was declared contraband, together with rosin, sails, hemp, cordage, masts and timber for ship building." “ Thus, on this account (says Valin) there would have been no cause for complaining of the conduct of the English, if they had not infringed particular treaties; for of right these things are now contraband, and have been so since the beginning of this century, which, however, was not the case formerly.”
6 The modern publick law on contraband," mentioned by Mr. Adet and his predecessors, probably refers to the principles declared by the armed neutrality during the American war. This transaction is too remarkable to be passed unnoticed.
During that war, Great Britain and the other belligerent powers, exercising the rights assured to them by the law of nations, made prize of enemies' property on board neutral vessels, and of contraband goods belonging to neutrals. Eager as neutral nations must be to seize the opportunity which war presents, of becoming the carriers for the belligerent nations, whose ships and mariners are wanted for military operations, it was perfectly natural that the former should desire to establish as a rule that free ships should make free goodsor in other words, that neutral bottoms should protect the goods on board to whomsoever these belonged; and it was equally natural for them to desire to diminish the list of contraband. In respect to the latter, it must have been particularly interesting to the three northern maritime powers, from whose dominions chiefly the other maritime nations of Europe received supplies of timber and naval stores, to strike these from the list of contraband, or by some means to exempt them from capture.
With these dispositions, the Empress of Russia, in Feb
* Book 7, sec. 112.
† Valin, vol. 2, page 264.