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event; he charging no circumstance as improper in the captors; but rather seemed to consider the introduction of the prisoners, made on that occasion, so soon into the place where the exchange would be effected, as an alleviation of the misfortune of losing the vessel which he attributed to some misinformation received by the captain from two American vessels, with the names of which or of their masters he was unacquainted."
Here, without censure might the governour have abandoned his investigation; but being no lukewarm pursuer of truth, he proceeded further. "Being informed that a pilot from Norfolk, (a man of respectable character,) was well acquainted with the circumstances of the capture, and his absence preventing the governour from then availing himself of his information, he directed his deposition to be taken as well as that of the captain who had commanded the corvette at the time of her capture, and transmitted to him: an expectation of which documents prevented him from recurring to the subject sooner."
Mr. Daniel Bedinger, who seems to have been charged with the obtaining of testimony, wrote to the governour on the 25th March, 1795, thus. "In compliance with your request, when I last had the pleasure of seeing you, Mr. Cowper and myself called upon the captain of the French corvette, taken off the capes last January, and requested from him a statement of the circumstances, relative to his being captured. He at first appeared willing to comply with our wishes, and promised to meet us the next day for that purpose; but did not however appear. He was afterwards again applied to, severally by Mr. Cowper and myself; when he discovered a degree of unwillingness; for which we could not readily account; observing at the same time, that he had immediately on his arrival at this place (Norfolk,) rendered to the French consul a full and circumstantial account of that transaction."
If from two French citizens, one of them, the commander of the vessel, the other, a vice consul of France, not a word could be extracted; which did not extenuate the capture; where were the agents of government next to look for evidence? The last hope was in a pilot named Butler; the material part of whose affidavit has been forwarded to you. He deposes, "That on his arrival in Lynn Haven Bay, as before related, (about the beginning of January last,) he found there properly moored the French sloop of war I'Esperance, a prize also to the Argonaut: that he understood from the officers and "people on board of the Resolution, that the said sloop of war had been taken some days before; brought to where she then lay, and there valued or appraised: that the admiral took her to himself at the said valuation or appraisement: that the said prize sloop of war I'Esperance, was then and there manned and fitted for a cruise: that offers were made to him the deponent, by the admiral himself to engage as a pilot, for said sloop of war during her intended cruise on the coast, which offers he this deponent rejected: and that when he was at length permitted to leave the Resolution in order to return home; the prize sloop of war I'Esperance, was still moored in Lynn Haven Bay."
The language of the French vice consul after a full conference with the captain of the corvette; the captain's procrastination, promise and breach of promise, as to testimony, and some other circumstances had admonished us not to be precipitate. A letter was therefore written to Mr. Hammond, adapted to the information in our possession; and too plainly develops the sincerity of our government, to be omitted; were it not, that its length and that of the letters associated with it recommend that the copies of them be detached from the body of this.
On the 5th instant Mr. Hammond transmitted to me a counter declaration of Butler, to the following purport. "That he had never any knowledge of the appraisement or equipment of I'Esperance: that no offer to go on board her as a pilot for the coast was made to him by admiral Murray: that he never deposed to many of the articles said to have been sworn to by him: that he can neither read nor write, but from what he has heard, he presumes Mr. Bedinger has perverted his deposition, as he saw fit: that the Harmony was in possession of the British, when he boarded her, whether it was on the day of her detention or a day afterwards he cannot determine:" and "that Mr. Bedinger waited on him and told him, it was the governour's desire he should depose to what he knew relative to the ship Harmony^
This counter declaration is not offered as a paper t* which much confidence is due: but suspicious as it is, it advises us to pause, before the government was compromitted upon Butler's single affidavit. I have therefore entreated the executive of Virginia to remove all ambiguity. Mr. Bedinger has been aware of Butler's recantation: but as he had not seen it, the certificates which were forwarded from him by the governour of that state, have perhaps been less conclusive in relation to -the corvette, than they will be some short time hence.
This is the sum of every syllable which we know concerning l'Esperance. The train, in which the subject now rests is in the opinion of the President the most eligible one. The facts will be explored, with all the expedition in our power. When they are fixed, we shall not be in the rear of our obligations.
Fourth, You will correct me, sir, if I err when I sup
?ose, that you build your complaint of the repairs of the 'hetis upon the despatches from the governour of Virginia, which I had the honour of enclosing to you on the 24th of February last. Being unapprized of any other statement, I shall direct my reply to that which is disclosed by those papers. The British consul Hamilton informed the collector at Norfolk on the 2d of January, 1795, that the "Thetis and Cleopatra having received some damage, it would be necessary for them to have repairs, before they could again proceed to sea: that they were both expected there the first fair wind for that purpose, and he presumed would be permitted to pass the forts into that harbour."— "The collector thinking himself unwarranted to do any thing in the business," the lieutenant colonel of the militia of Norfolk was applied to, and "he conceived it his duty to give orders to the commandant of the forts, not to suffer the frigates to pass, until the governour's orders should be had thereon. The executive of Virginia resolved that "ships of war circumstanced as those mentioned by the British consul, may be permitted to enter our ports to fit them for sea; provided they have not made prizes of the people or property of France and come in with their prizes into the ports of the United States." Not being prohibited by the laws of neutrality or the treaty, from permitting in our ports to any of the belligerent parties naval equipments, of a nature not warlike; the rules of August 3a, 1793, declare, thai, " equipments in the ports of the United States of vessels of war, in the immediate service of the government of any of the belligerent parties, which if done to other vessels would be of a doubtful nature, as being applicable either to commerce or war, are deemed lawful; except those which shall have made prize of the subjects, people, or property of France, coming with their prizes mto the ports of the United States, pursuant to the 17th article of the treaty of amity and commerce with France.'* To the kind of repairs done to the Thetis, I am as yet an absolute stranger. That they were not warlike, is rather probable from the expressions of the Virginia executive. That they were not warlike is more probable still from their acquiescence. Every report accords with these conjectures. But notwithstanding this strong appearance, that the rules have not been violated, an inquiry has been instituted.
Third, The third symptom of a British predilection is conceived to be, "That the militia have as yet been assembled, only to support the arrest of French vessels and their prizes." This, sir, can have but one of two significations: cither that they have not been designated by the standing instructions to the officers in the states, as proper to be employed in favour of the French on those conjunctures, in which the militia would be the appropriate instruments: or tfiat there has been a positive failure so to employ them. «
Our constitution, laws, and distribution into several independent states, naturally marked out the governours, as the coadjutors of the federal government in maintaining our neutrality. Their quality of commanders in chief of the militia was particularly selected ;' when they were desiring to co-operate; and the militia was pointed out, as the resource upon an extremity.
If it has been, that from negligence or design, France has been disappointed in succour from the militia when it ought to have been displayed; specify the instances, sir, they shall be immediately analyzed. In the meantime permit me to observe, that it would have been not a little extraordinary to refuse the aid of the militia ta one belligerent nation, how justly soever demanding it; merely because the same or a like case had not occurred, and might not occur in regard to another.
Fourth, The predicament of a neutral nation is alwaj?
peculiar and delicate; and eminently so, while it defends itself against charges of partiality from one of the warring powers, lest it should seem to palliate the misdoings of another. But you are not to infer from my justification of the Executive, that the validity of the proclamation of blockade is assented to. We did read on the 10th of April, 1795, a publication from his Britannick majesty's consul general for the middle and southern states of America giving publick notice, that he had received official communications that the islands of Guadaloupe, Marigalante and Desirade, were by proclamation, issued by his Britannick majesty's general and vice admiral, commanding in the West Indies, declared to be in an actual state of blockade; and that neutral vessels were by that proclamation prohibited from attempting to enter any of the ports or places of the said islands, with provisions or supplies of any nature or kind whatsoever under the penalty of being "dealt with conformably to existing treaties, and as warranted by the established laws of nations." So highly valued has the West Indian commerce always been, that this exclusion was often revolved in the mind of the Executive. It was acknowledged, that neutrals are interdicted by the law of nations from a blockaded port. From some quarter or other the blockade must be notified; or else neutrals would be a constant, unsuspecting prey; not being in a condition to collect this information for themselvesWho then are to notify the military investment of a place f Surely not the besieged: but the besiegers; whether we consult principle or practice. The check which neutrals have, upon a wanton and false parade of a siege, is the same with the check upon any other groundless pretence. We might indeed hav e remonstrated; but with what colour may well be imagined, when this department was unprovided with any document upon which the rescinding of that edict could have been urged. If rumour were a fit guide, who can pronounce, on which side rumour preponderated, when stripped of the exaggerations, which a host of passions had gathered together? We had, it may be said one effort remaining: which was to promulge to the citizens of the United States, that the proclamation was null and void! as to them. If after this defiance of that act, any American vessel had risked, and incurred confiscation, the