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CASE OF THE CASSIUS.
The Minister Plenipotentiary of the French Republick near the United States, to Mr. Randolph, Secretary of State of the United States. Philadelphia, the 22 Thermidor, 3d year of the French Repid)lick, one and indivisible (the 9 August, 1795, 0. S.)
Sir.—The corvette le Cassius belonging to the French Republick, is detained in the port of Philadelphia, her captain cited before an American court, and was yesterday arrested in virtue of a warrant. He would have been imrisoned, if I had not ordered the consul to give bail for im: the proceedings were carried still further; an attempt was made to arrest him on board his vessel.
I have received from the captain a report of the motives for his arrest: the result is that he was taken before a court to answer for an act committed by him on the high seas, as commander of a state vessel.
We should distinguish, sir, between the acts of a private citizen and those of a publick agent. The law is universal that private individuals should be amenable, for offences committed by them in a foreign territory, to the courts of that territory, and subjected to the penalties of the laws of the country.
But the acts of a man in the character of a publick agent are not his own; he represents his government, and if he conducts so as to excite the complaints of the citizens of another state, or of this state, justice should not be required of him, but of the government from whom he holds the authority in. virtue of which he has done the act complained of.
It is his government alone that is to judge, whether the orders it has given have been well executed or not, and to approve or punish its agent accused of an improper act towards neutral or allied nations, and to make such reparation as it deems just and equitable. Therefore the party complaining should lay their complaints before it, either directly or through the medium of its own government. Were it otherwise, one government would become amenable to another; which would reverse the first priu
ciples of the rights of nations.
This incontestable principle is corroborated by the 15tli article of our treaty, which states literally—" and that more effectual care may be taken for the security of the subjects and inhabitants of both parties, that they suffer no injury by the men of war or privateers of the other party, all the commanders of the ships of his most christian majesty and of the United States, and all their subjects and inhabitants, shall be forbidden to do any injury or damage to the other side; and if they act to the contrary they shall be punished, and shall moreover be bound to make satisfaction for all damages and the interests thereof by reparation under the penalty and obligation of their person and goods." This article evidently carries with it the right of causing the officers of both nations to be tried by their own government, as it says that it "shall be forbidden," &c.
This prohibition is made to the French by the French government—to the Americans by that of the United btates. He alone who makes a prohibition has the right of punishing infractions of it.—Hence it follows that the commander of the corvette Le Cassius cannot be punished but by the French government, should he merit punishment from the complaints which shall be exhibited to it by yours.
The conduct of France to the United States should not lead them to imagine that she will ever be inattentive to their just complaints—she has been and always will be eager to repair in an ample and complete manner the slightest injury done to your rights.
What motive then could have led the American courts to arrogate to themselves the cognizance of the conduct of French agents? It gives me pain to disclose the matter to you. Yet, sir, it is not the first case that has presented:— General Collot is brought here before a court, as governour of Guadaloupe. I shall have the honour of addressing an official note to you on this subject.
I return to the affair of the corvette Le Cassius. She is detained here by the arrestation of her captain which is a violation of the 19th article of our treaty, of which the following is a transcript. "In case the subjects and inhabitants of either party with their shipping, whether publick, and of war, or private and of merchants, shall be forced through stress of weather, pursuit of pirates, or enemies or any other urgent necessity for seeking of shelter and harbour, to retreat and enter into any of the rivers, bays, roads or ports belonging to the other party, they shall be received and treated with all humanity and kindness, and enjoy all friendly protection and help; and they shall be permitted to refresh at reasonable rates with victuals and all things needful for the sustenance of their persons, or reparation of their ships, and conveniency of their voyage; and they shall no ways be detained or hindered from returning out of the said ports or roads, but may remove and depart when and whither they please, without any let or hindrance."
This arrest is likewise in this case very injurious to the interests of the Republick, as the vessel is on a very important mission, and should depart without delay,
I return, sir, and observe to you that the arrest of the captain of the French corvette le Cassius is a violation of principles and of our treaty. I therefore request
1st. That you use the proper means for the liberation 'of the captain of the Cassius, and for removing the seizure of the vessel agreeable to the 19th article of our treaty with you.
2. That you have the complaint transferred to the French government, who will repair the injuries committed (if he has acted without orders) in pursuance of the 15th article of the same treaty.
The desire which you have more than once testified to me, sir, of rigorously maintaining the observance of our treaties leaves me no doubt of your disposition to do justice to my demands. I therefore confine myself to request you to accelerate your answer and the solution of this affair.
Accept, sir. fro.
P. A. ADET,
The Minister Plenipotentiary of the French Republic!:, to Mr. Randolph, Secretary of State of the United States. Philadelphia, 24 Thermidor, 3d year of the French Rc, public/c, one and indivisible, 11 th August, 1795, 0. S.
Sir,—I have just received the documents you will find enclosed. They relate to the corvette of the Republick, the Cassius. I had every reason to hope, that the letter which I wrote you on the 22d Thermidor (9th August, 1795), would have been productive of its full effect. I cannot but consider the arrest of the corvette of the Republick, the Cassius, as contrary to the 19th article of the treaty of France with the United States. Consequently I renew my request to you, to obtain the execution of this article. Besides I will observe to you, that my government has ordered me to claim the literal execution of our treaties, and that you will ne'ver claim the like of the French Republick in vain.
I cannot credit the report made to the consul at Philadelphia. I cannot believe, that it should be undertaken to take away the sails and apparel of a publick ship, and consequently I forbade the consul to give security for the corvette the Cassius. It is for you to judge, sir, what is proper to be done in this affair, which appears to me to be more important than can be well imagined. I will close this letter by observing to you, that the Cassius is to pail in six days upon an important errand.
Accept, &c. P. A. ADET.
We, the officers, sailors and soldiers, composing the crew of the corvette of the Republick the Cassius, commanded by S. B. Davis, lieutenant of the navy, being nt the wharf of Philadelphia, certify, that on the 24th Thermidor, in the 3d year of the French Republick one and indivisible (or 11th August, 1795, O. S.) about six o'clock in the morning, there came on board an American, hold' Jng in his hand a large piece of paper, which was written upon: he addressed himself to one of us, who was officer of the guard: he spoke in the American language: not understanding him, we desired a man who happened to be on board and who understood the American language to be pleased to interpret in French what the American wanted ; and after speaking with him a short time in the American language, he told us that the bearer of the written paper had come in behalf of the police of Philadelphia, that his business was against the captain and the corvette, and that he desired to affix the said paper to the main-mast. We answered him by the same means, that the corvette belonged to the Republick, that we could not permit any thing to be affixed, but by order of the representative of the French nation, telling him besides, also by means of the same interpreter, that if the American nation had any complaints to make against the Republick, there were ministers or representatives of the French in this city, that it might lay its demands or complaints before them: to which he answered us, that he did not come of his own accord, that he must do his duty, and since we would not permit him to affix his said paper, that he would render an account of it to his superiors, and that orders would be given to the fort to hinder the departure of the corvette and to arrest her, and finally he retired. Of the whole of what is written above and on the preceding pages we have made the present report, to be immediately sent to the representative of the French people resident at Philadelphia, to serve and avail as it ought: Done on board the said corvette, the day, month, and year aforesaid: this we signed after it was read with a loud voice in presence of the crew.