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would require some time for a letter to pass from Norfolk to Richmond, the seat of government, for an answer to be returned from Richmond to Norfolk, and for the usual allowance for the possibility of the governour's absence (which now seems probable from an expression in his letter of the 12th ult. to Mr. Oster) I did not hold myself justified in expressing to him a suspicion.of neglect. Without such a suspicion, it would have been absolutely useless to address him, as he could have been merely instructed to make the necessary inquiries, and to fulfil the sense of the President, both which things he ought to accomplish of course, upon being notified of the occasion.
"As governour Lee in that letter of the 12th ult. promises to discharge the duties which are expected from him, I cannot doubt, that he, or the lieutenant governour in his absence has before this day completed the business, according to national faith. But that there may not be any impediment to the gratification of your wishes, I have the pleasure of enclosing to you the copy of a letter, which will be despatched by the mail of to-morrow to the executive of Virginia."
That letter runs thus, " October 3d, 1794. It is with great mortification, that intelligence has been received at the Department of State from the minister of the French Republick, that the British frigate Terpsichore has carried as a prize into Norfolk or some of our ports in its neighbourhood, the French privateer La Montagne. Our treaty with France positively forbids the admission of a foreign ship of war under such circumstances. The rules which have been adopted by the President, are pointed on this particular subject. What is due to all nations, we ought faithfully to render to the British. What is beyond the rights of the law of nations, we are under no obligation to perform, especially towards the British shipping which is hourly destroying our trade and more especially in defiance of a treaty which ought to be held sacred."
"It appears, sir, by a letter from governour Lee, to the French consul at Norfolk, on the 12th of September last, that he had undertaken to make the necessary inquiries into the fact, and to do, what the nature of the case demanded. The minister of the French Republick is uneasy at the delay of the governour's answer, and is led to apprehend from thence a more injurious delay in the effecting of the business. I have given him my ideas of the course of this affair; trusting and believing that the patriotism of the executive of Virginia will not suffer this gross insult to our treaty. Let me entreat you, sir, to exert the attachment, which I know your whole body to possess, to national faith, and to cause to be rendered to the French Republick that justice, to which it is entitled, upon the presumption that the facts as stated, shall be found to be accurate.” Upon these letters you are pleased on the 6th of October, 1794, to make, the following comments. “In proportion to the pain of complaining of the negligence and tardiness which are shown in many parts of the United States in the execution of the treaties, which equally bind our two nations, is the pleasure of acknowledging the receipt of the despatch, in which I find expressed with the energy of a friend, the intention of the federal government, to maintain the engagements, which it has contracted with the French Republick. I observe to you, however, that this intention will produce no effect, if you are obliged to notify it to the governours every time that hostile vessels with their prizes shall enter the ports from their cruise (arrondissement.) For these vessels would then have time to take in provisions for themselves and their prizes before the order of departure, which ought to be given to them immediately, for fulfilling the object of the contracting parties, can be notified to them. It does not require a long time to make the researches, necessary for determining, whether a vessel puts into a harbour only by force of the dangers of the sea. This is a case in which a few hours suffice for obtaining information, and it appears to me, that there is already a fault on the part of the governours or of those who are appointed to maintain the laws, that a demand must be made upon them for the execution of the instructions, which they have received from their government. They have failed in their duty which prescribes a continual vigilance and attention, to prevent any thing being done, contrary to the laws or treaties of their country. You will pardon, sir, these reflections, when you shall learn that an English frigate has just anchored in Hampton road with two French privateers, as prizes. If on the very day of her arrival she has not been directed to depart immediately : if there must have been
long inquiries beforehand : and the consul must have written in the first instance; the English will have had time to revictual, and supply all their wants: and the article of our treaty, which at first sight seems necessarily to be so disadvantageous to them, will in no respect control their piracies. To crown the system of robbery which they nave invented, nothing more will be wanting, than to carry into your own ports, the vessels, which they shall have taken from yourselves ; since they already conduct thither in spite of your laws, those which they have taken from your allies."
That your suggestion was not forgotten, is demonstrated by my circular letter to the governours on the 10th of October, 1794, a copy of which I had the honour of enclosing to you on the same day in these words: "Although I cannot doubt, that the treaties of the United States with France will be respected by your excellency according to the obligations of good faith and sincere friendship, yet I must take the liberty of recommending to your particular attention the 17th article of the treaty of commerce. Mr. Fauchet, the minister of the French Republick near the United States, apprehends from circumstances which have been experienced, that unless prompt and decisive measures are adopted in the several ports, in regard to vessels hostile to the French nation, and bringing in French prizes; this branch of that treaty will become null. It cannot require much time to go through the necessary examination ; and therefore, I must entreat your excellency to enter into such arrangements for the execution of this member of the treaty, and the correspondent rules of the President of the United States, as will effectually prevent under those circumstances hostile vessels from receiving comfort and succour, contrary to solemn stipulations, ft will not escape your observation, that if adequate measures should be delayed, in the ports distant from your excellency until you can be notified and forward special instructions, adapted to each case, the opportunity of enforcing the treaty w"ill be lost.'*
On the 10th of October the lieutenant governour of Virginia acknowledges the receipt of mine of the 3d, and proceeds:—" That he was not able at present to give me the information he could wish, with respect to the British frigate Terpsichore: that before the governour left Rich
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mond, he received the information, which I mentioned from the vice consul at Norfolk, and, in his character of commander in chief of the militia, assured Mr. Oster in a letter of the 12th ultimo, that he “would make the necessary inquiries, and then pursue the conduct which the President’s instructions enjoined:” that not receiving any communications respecting the governour's inquiries, he naturally concluded that the frigate had been ordered to depart, and had complied with the injunction: that he had now given the most pointed instructions to the commandant of the militia at Norfolk to make immediate inquiry into the facts, and report the same to the Executive; and in the mean time to cause to be rendered to the Republick of France, that justice to which it was entitled: that he had written to the vice consul on the subject, and had requested him to make the lieutenant governour acuainted with all cases of a similar nature which might thereafter occur.” A copy of this letter I had the honour of transmitting to you on the 19th of October, 1794. The lieutenant governour had given on the 9th of October, 1794, positive instructions to the purport promised, as is manifest from his letter of that date to Thomas Newton, commandant of the militia of Norfolk; and on the 25th of the same month, he directed the commandants of the militia of the borough of Norfolk and the counties of Norfolk and Elizabeth-city, effectually to execute my letter of the 10th of October, 1794, by preventing vessels in the predicament described from receiving comfort or Succoul". What became of the Terpsichore, you will ask? Lieutenant governour Wood, truly conjectured, that she had departed. For she sailed certainly before the 28th of September, 1794, and very probably about the 20th, and it is not understood that she has returned. Where, I beseech you, in this assemblage of facts, will you find a vestige of British prepossession ? Is it in the interpretation which we have given to the 17th article of the treaty We are still o of its soundness. Until we be convinced of an errour; bound as we are by the law of nations, to sit as an independent umpire between the pretensions of the belligerent parties, relative to ourselves, we are bound by conscience to obey our own understanding. Is it in the federal Executive, not having employed the most effectual means in his power? He was assisted by the governours, the district attorneys, the collectors of the customs; and he appointed the militia for important exigencies. Is it because our nation, as yet fer below the zenith of its future force, cannot summon into action a navy, wherewith to repel intrusions? This would be extravagance.—Is it because we do not learn in an instant that we have been injured by the coming of prizes, made from the French? Intelligence cannot travel so quickly. Judge for yourself, sir, of the sensibility, which influenced this passage of a letter to the minister lenipotentiary of his Britannick majesty. "It will not e deemed by the President a sufficient expiation for British ships of war, which have made prizes of French vessels, and come into our ports in derogation of our treaty with France, merely to depart when individually directed; but such conduct will be considered as entitling the United States to adopt any proceedings, which the repetition of the aggression shall demand." To the inquiry of Mr. Hammond as to the "proceedings" contemplated, it was answered that "being free to choose the means for executing the branch of the treaty in question, we shall adopt those, which are expedient and commensurate with the violations of it; and the nature and degree of them will depend upon the nature and degree of each exigency." When, therefore, we shall have wilfully failed in these purposes, your remonstrances will not be misplaced.
Third, I am not yet in the capacity of pronouncing whether the capture of the French corvette l'Esperance, by the British ship Argonaut, ought to form an article in any remonstrance whatsoever.
Your letter of the 31st of Jan. 1795, was the earliest notice of the event to the President of the United Slates. Mine of the 1 st of February, transmitting yours, was the earliest notice to the executive of Virginia. This being a principal object of the governour's visit to Norfolk; he sought information from a source of accuracy as he conceived, when he resorted to the vice consul of the French Republick, residing there. But, says the governour on the 1st of April, 1795, "With respect to the capture of the corvette, I received no information from him which appeared to justify the uneasiness, occasioned by that