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The third offensive act was the President's submitting to Congress these measures, and suggesting the expediency of' extending our legal code, giving competent jurisdiction to the courts, and providing adequate penalties to prevent or punish violations of the laws of nations.
The next complaint respects the act of Congress passed on the 5th of June, 1794, "for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States;" being those to which their attention had been called by the President's speech. Mr. Adet asks "what was its result?" And gives himself the following answer. "In consequence of this law, the greater part of the French privateers have been arrested, as well as their prizes; not upon formal depositions, not upon established testimony, not upon a necessary body of proofs, but upon the simple information of the consul of one of the powers at war with the French Republick, frequently upon that of sailors of the enemy powers; sometimes according to the orders of the governours, but often upon the demand of the district attorneys, who as«crt upon principles avowed by the government, that their conviction was sufficient to authorize them, without complaint or regular information, to cause the privateers to be prosecuted in virtue of the law above mentioned."— And "when the ministers of the Republick have asked for justice of the government, for the vexations experienced by the privateers, in contempt of the 17th article of the treaty, they have never been able to obtain satisfaction."
Judging only by these declarations of Mr. Adet, a stranger woirid imagine there had been a combination of the general and state governments and of our courts, to harass and do injustice to Frenchmen engaged in privateering. But our own citizens place a different estimate on this impeachment of their President, their senators and representatives in Congress, their judges and other publick officers: and an examination of the cases cited by Mr. Adet to support his assertions will manifest their incorrectness.
First case. The French privateer Sans Pareil and her prize the Perseverance.
On the 26th August, 1794, Mr. F'auchet complained that the prize had been seized on the pretext that the Sans Pareil had been illegally armed in the United States, vot.. n. 17
The answer of September 3d, from the Secretary of State, which Mr. Adet censures "as indicative of delay," assured him that the Secretary had urged the governour of Rhode Island, where the prize was carried, to report the circumstances of the case without delay. On the 27th ol Sept. the secretary informed Mr. Fauchet, that the governour had decided that the prize should be restored. On the 17th of Oct. Mr. Fauchet renewed his complaint, for on the suit of the claimant the prize had again been arrested by process from the district court. The Secretary of State answered on the 22d, with information that ought to have satisfied Mr. Fauchet. For admitting that agreeably to the law of the 5th of June, 1794, the courts had authority, and were bound in duty to take cognizance ol captures made within the jurisdiction of the United States, or by privateers illegally fitted in their ports (the right of doing which Mr. Fauchet did not contest) they could not refuse it in the case of the prize of the bans Pareil: the guard against vexatious prosecutions being the judgment tor cost and damages to which an unjust prosecutor i» exposed. The circular letter written on this occasion to the governours of the states manifests the solicitude of our government to prevent vexatious suits. 2d Case. Glass and Gibbs.
By the copy of the proceedings in the supreme court of the United States, in this case, you will see that the court did not, as stated by Mr. Adet, determine " that the tribunals could decide whether a prize belonged to enemies or to neutrals." The question before the court was of the cognizance of a captured vessel and cargo, the former the property of a Swede and the latter belonging partly to some Swedes, and partly to a citizen of the Vnited States. The opinion therefore pronounced by the supreme court applied to the case in which one of the claimants was a citizen of the United States. And after solemn argument, the court decided, " that the district court of Maryland had jurisdiction, and should accordingly proceed to determine upon this case agreeably to law and right."
I will add only one more remark—That the 17th article the letter of which we are chai-ged with violating, in suffering our courts to take cognizance of French prizes, expressly refers to "the ships and goods taken from their tnemies;" and it is the " examination concerning the lawguineas of such prizes" which the article forbids. But no -examination of such prizes has been attempted by our government or tribunals, unless on clear evidence, er reasonable presumption, that the captures were made in circumstances which amounted to a violation of our sovereignty and territorial rights.
3a Case. The French privateer IJAmi At la Paint a Petrt, captain William Talbot, and her Dutch prize the Vrouw Christina Magdalena.
To the information contained in the papers collected in this case I have to add, that this cause was finally decided in the supreme court in August term, 1795- The court were unanimously of opinion, that in the particular circumstances of Talbot's case, notwithstanding his French commission, and his taking an oath of allegiance to the French Republick, he continued to be a citizen of the United States. But the cause, as I am informed, did not appear to have turned on this point. Talbot had associated with one Ballard, commanding an armed vessel called the Ami de la Liberie, which had been fitted out in the United States, and had no commission. Talbot and Ballard cruised together as consorts; and in fact it was Ballard's vessel that took the prize; Talbot not coming up till an hour after the capture. Ballard was afterwards tried, before the circuit court, for piracy.
The court were also of opinion, from the tenour of the evidence, that Talbot's vessel was owned by citizens of the United States, to whom the prize money would eventually find its way in case of restitution to the captors.
Ballard and Talbot were both citizens of Virginia. The attempt of the latter to become a French citizen, was considered to be fraudulent, being made for the sole purpose of obtaining a commission, under colour of which he might plunder the subjects of nations with whom the United States were at peace.
An observation ought not to be omitted here, That although the captors, Talbot and others, had been defeated both in the district and circuit courts, yet they carried the cause up to the supreme court: thus using the legal right of appealing to the court in the last resort; a right which ahke exercised by the subjects of powers who were enemies to France, has formed a principal subject of Mr. Fauchet's and Mr. Adet's continued complaints.
4th. Under the head of complaints for vexatious prosecutions, Mr. Adet mentions only two cases in which damages and interest were allowed to the French captors. viz. one of la muestra Senora del Carmen, at Rhode Island. and the other of la Princessa des.'lsturias at New York. “Yet (says he) the tribunals have always allowed damages to the captured, when they have declared the prizes illegal.” How far the facts will warrant this last assertion. I am not possessed of documents to determine. I presume it is to be understood in a general sense only, and to admit of exceptions. And in this sense there will be no difficulty in admitting the truth of the assertion, and accounting for it. The captures here referred to, were made either within our jurisdictional line, or by illegal privateers. being such as were equipped in whole or in part, in the ports of the United States. Of these material facts the captors could not be ignorant; o they could have no apology for defending their unjust claims in our courts; and of course, were justly condemned in costs and damages. In the case of the prizes of the privateer the Citizen of Mersailles, damages were claimed by the captors, but denied. For those prizes had been considered in the district court to be illegal. And although the sentence of that court was reversed in the circuit court, yet it was upon the introduction of new testimony, on the part of the captors. This last decision was affirmed in the supreme court, yet without damages: inasmuch as the testimony was considered to be so ambiguous as to justify the appeal. The same remarks apply to the prizes of the privateer General Laveaua , with this addition, that one of the judges dissented from the opinion of the court, being firmly of opinion that this privateer was covered American property. The privateer la Parisienne had been registered as an American coasting vessel, under the name of the Hawk. During the embargo, in the spring of 1794, she slipped out of Charleston, and went to Port de Paix; where she was sold to one Blochos, a Frenchman, who armed her and provided her with a commission. Having afterwards arrived at Charleston, she was recognised and prosecuted for a breach of the revenue laws, in having gone to a foreign port whilst she was in the legal predicament of a coaster. The district court condemned her: but on the application of Blochos to have her restored on paying the appraised value, the judge permitted him to take her, in a state of warlike equipment. Shortly afterwards she put to sea, and captured two valuable British prizes, the brigantinc Caesar and Favourite. On their arrival, the one at Charleston, the other at Savannah, suits were commenced to obtain their restitution, as having been captured by an illegal privateer. The decrees of the court* were in favour of the captors, but without damages. The supreme court disapproved of the restitution of the privateer without dismantling her: and considered the mistake committed in this respect a sufficient reason to cover the party prosecuting from the payment of damages.
All the other cases of captures by French privateers, which have been brought up to the supreme court, were decided at last August term. In some of them, the circumstances would not have warranted an award of damages, in others the counsel for the captors omitted to ask for them. When demanded, you know that it is in the discretion of the court to grant or refuse them: this discretion being regulated by all the circumstances of each case. Hence when a party is drawn before the court without good cause and vexatiously, damages are always given; but are denied when there appears a reasonable cause of controversy.
5th. Mr. Adet having briefly noticed several cases by name, seems to reserve those of the Vengeance and the Casius for a full display of unwarrantable conduct in the government and courts of the United States, and therefore descants on them at some length; but with so many aberrations from the facts, with so many erroneous ideas concerning our jurisprudence, and so many injurious insinuations respecting our courts and their officers, it will be necessary that you should learn the true history of these cases from authentick documents.
Case of the French Privateer la Vengeance.
For the full history of this privateer and her prize, I must refer you to the documents in the case. The principal facts are these. About the latter end of June, or beginning of July, 1795, the privateer la Vengeance arrived at New York with a valuable Spanish prize called the Princessa de las Asturias. Don Diego Pintado, the owner, commenced a suit for his vessel, on the ground that she