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Clarke with powers to name and commission other officers, and to raise a body of men; no steps having been taken by him (as far as has come to my knowledge) to carry this plan into execution, I did not conceive it was either proper or necessary for me to do any thing in the business.
Two Frenchmen, La Chaise and Delpeau, have lately come into this slate; I am told they declare, publickly, they are in daily expectation of receiving a supply of money, and that as soon as they do receive it, they shall raise a hody of men and proceed with them clown the river. Whether they have any sufficient reason to expect to get such a supply, or any serious intention of applying it in that manner, if they do receive it, I can form no opinion.
I judged it proper, as the President had directed you to write to me on this subject, to give you this information, that he may be apprized as fully as I am of the steps which have been and are now taking here in this matter. If the President should hereafter think it necessary to hold any further communication with the executive of this state on this subject, I wish him to be full and explicit as to the part which he wishes and expects me to act. That if what is required of me should, in my opinion, be within my constitutional powers, and in the line of my duty, I may hereafter have it in my power to show that the steps which I may take were not only within my legal powers, but were also required by him.
I have great doubts, even if they do attempt to carry their plan into execution (provided they manage their business with prudence) whether there is any legal authority to restrain or punish them, at least before they have actually accomplished it. For if it is lawful for any one citizen of this state to leave it, it is equally so for any number of them to do it. It is also lawful for them to carry with them any quantity of provisions, arms and ammunition; and if the act is lawful in itself, there is nothing but the particular intention with which it is done thai con possibly make it unlawful; but I know of no law which inflicts a punishment on intention onlv, or any criterion by which to decide what would be sufficient evir dence of that intention, if it was a proper subject of If^al censure..
I shall, upon all occasions, be averse to the exercise of any power which I do not consider myself as being clearly and explicitly invested with, much less would i assume a power to exercise it against men who I consider as friends and brethren, in favour of a man whom I view as an enemy and a tyrant. I shall also feel but little inclination to take an active part in punishing or restraining any of my fellow citizens for a supposed intention only to gratify or remove the fears of the minister of a prince, who openly withholds from us an invaluable right, and who secretly instigates against us a most savage and cruel enemy.
But whatever may be my private opinion as a man, as a friend to liberty, an American citizen, and an inhabitant of the Western waters, I shall at all times hold it as my duty to perform whatever may be constitutionally required of me as governour of Kentucky by the President of the United States. I have the honour to be, &c.
The Hon. Thomas Jefferson, Esq.
Philadelphia, March 29, 1794.'
Sir,—The letter which your excellency addressed to my predecessor on the thirteenth of January, 1794, has been laid before the President of the United States, and I have it in charge from him to recall to your view the state of things, with which it is connected.
You were informed, sir, on the 29th of August, 1793, that the commissioners of Spain had complained of at'tempts to excite the inhabitants of Kentucky to an enterprise against the Spanish dominions on the Mississippi; that the President requested you to be attentive to circumstances of this kind: that if such an enterprise -was meditated, your citizens ought to be put on their guard against the consequences; and that you should adopt the necessary legal measures for preventing it; as acts of hostility, committed by our citizens against nations at peace with the United States, were forbidden by the laws, and would subject the offenders to punishment. . That every effectual exhortation might be combined with a sense of duty, it was at the same time represented to you, that, "In addition to considerations respecting the peace of the general union, the special interests of the state of Kentucky would be particularly committed; as nothing could be more inauspicious to them, than such a movement, at the very moment when those interests were under negotiation between Spain and the United States."
Your excellency's answer on the fifth October, 1793, gave a satisfactory assurance of your readiness to counteract any design from Kentucky against the Spanish dominions on the Mississippi; of your persuasion that none such was then in contemplation in your state ; and of youK citizens possessing too just a sense of the obligations, which they owe to the general government, to embark in any enterprise so injurious to the United States.
It was, therefore, with full confidence in your zeal, that on the sixth of November, 1793, upon the representation of the commissioners of Spain, you were farther informed, that on the second of October, 1793, four Frenchmen, of the names of La Chaise, Charles Delpeau, Mathurin and Gignoux, had set out in the stage from Philadelphia to Kentucky, authorized by the then minister of France here to engage as many as they could, whether of our citizens, or others, on the road, or within your state, or elsewhere, to undertake an expedition against the Spanish settlements within our neighbourhood, and in event, to descend the Ohio and Mississippi, and to attack New Orleans, where naval co-operation was expected; and that they were furnished with money for these purposes, and with blank commissions, to be filled up at their discretion. Your excellency was requested to check these hostilities, and in doing so, to prefer those peaceable means of coercion which had been provided by the laws, (such as the binding to the good behaviour or indicting) or to resort to such other legal process, as those learned in the laws of your state might advise. The letter conveying the foregoing intelligence proceeds thus: "Where these fail, or are inadequate, a suppression by the militia of the state has been ordered and practised in other states. I hope that the citizens of Kentucky will not be decoyed into any participation in these illegal enterprises against the peace of their country, by any effect which they may expect from them on the navigation of the Mississippi, voi,. ir. (3
Their good sense will tell them, that is not to be effected by half measures of this kind; and that their surest dependence is on those regular measures which are pursued, and will be pursued by the general government, and which flow from the united authority of all the states."
After the impression made by your letter of the 5th of October, 1793, you will naturally conclude, how difficult it was to reconcile it with your last of the 13th of January, 1794.
As the constitution and laws of the United States are to govern the conduct of all, so cannot it be well imagined, that the President intended to impose upon your excellency any departure from them. You were asked to prefer peaceable means of coercion; and for that purpose, to consult those who were learned in the laws of your state to designate legal process. I shall not presume upon the imperfect knowledge, which can be obtained here, of the jurisprudence of Kentucky, to determine, whether any, or what species of process was admissible. I beg leave, however, to observe, that if, in the opinion of the judges, no preventive or other step could be supported, the President required none. My predecessor, in his letter of Nov. 6, 1793, arguing from what is usual in the United States, and recollecting what prevails in Virginia, many of the laws of which are understood to be incorporated in your code, naturally suggested the propriety of binding to the good behaviour, and indicting. And, indeed, what government can be so destitute of the means of self-defence, as. to suffer, with impunity, its peace to be drawn into jeopardy by hostilities, levied within its territory, against a foreign nation, order to be prostrated at the will of tumultuous individuals, and scenes of bloodshed and civil war to be introduced.
You intimate a doubt, sir, whether the two Frenchmen. La Chaise and Delpeau, can be restrained or punished, before they have actually accomplished their plan; and assign as a reason for the doubt, that any number of your citizens may lawfully leave your state, and carry with them any quantity of provisions, arms and ammunition. Hence you conclude that these acts being lawful, a particular intention cannot render them unlawful, and that no criterion exists for deciding such an intention. If there be no peculiarity in the laws of Kentucky, and it be allowable to reason from general principles, or an analogy to the practice of other states, we might expect from a candid revision of these sentiments, that a contrary result would arise in your mind. That foreigners should meddle in the affairs of a government, where they happen to be, has scarcely ever been tolerated, and is often severely punished. That foreigners should point the force of a nation, against its will, to objects of hostility, is an invasion of its dignity* its tranquillity, and even safety. Upon no principle can the individuals, on whom such guilt shall be fixed, bid the government to wait, as your excellency would seem to suppose, until their numbers shall defy the ordinary animadversions of law; and until they are incapable of being subdued, but by force of arms. To prevent the extremity of crimes, is wise and humane, and steps of precaution have therefore been found in the laws of most societies.
Nor is this offence of foreigners expiated or lessened by an appeal to a presumed right in the citizens of Kentucky to enlist under such banners, without the approbation of their country. In a government instituted for the happiness of the whole, with a clear delineation of the channels, in which the authority derived from them must flow, can a part only of the citizens wrest the sword from the hands of those magistrates whom the whole have invested with the direction of the military power? They may, it is true, leave their country; they may take arms and provisions with them; but, if these acts be done, not on the ground of mere personal liberty, but of being retained in a foreign service for purposes of enmity against another people, satisfaction will be demanded, and the state to which they belong cannot connive at their conduct, without hazarding a rupture. The evidence of a culpable intention is perhaps not so difficult as your excellency imagines; it is at least a familiar inquiry in penal prosecutions, and ought not to be an objection to your interference on this occasion. But here suffer me to repeat, that the President wishes you to do nothing more, than the laws themselves permit. Let them have their free course by such instructions as you may think adequate and advisable; and I trust that they will prove competent to rescue the United States from a painful altercation with a foreign sovereign.