United States, June 4, 1794.
Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives,
Lay before Congress the copy of a letter, with its enclosure, from the Secretary of State to the Minister Plenipotentiary of his Britannic Majesty; it being an answer to a letter from the Mnister to him; bearing date the 22 ult. and already communicated.
Philadelphia, June 2, 1794.
If, the letter with which you honoured me on the 22d ult. had not entered into a train of recrimination against the United States, I should not now trouble you with a return to its unpleasant topics. Among the reasons, which would have induced me to add nothing to my letter the 1st of lat month, its would have been of some weight that by silence I should avoid the repetition of a style and manner, which seem to have produced a personal excitement.
As you are willing to admit the authenticity of Lord Dorcester’s speech, we will, with your approbation, reserve for a future discussion, on what occasion, and to what degree, an explanation may be required by the government of the United States from a foreign minister.
I selected only one passage of that speech, because in it was concentrated the real object of the whole; which was to declare an expectation, that Great Britain would be at War with the united States in the course of the present year. and, if she were, to cause the warriors to draw a line. this is the undisguised sense of the governor-general, unaffected by the preliminary words, which you have thought proper to quote. It is your own interpretation. For so far are you from contradicting my assertion, that Lord Dorchester fostered and encouraged in the Indians, hostile dispositions towards us, that you continue the greater part of your remaining observations to vindicate his persuasion and your own, that the principal aggression, leading to hostility, proceeded from the United States and to suggest many others of the same tendency, upon which you would not dilate.
I shall not shrink, Sir, from your charges.
1st Notwithstanding the territory, upon which certain inhabitants of Vermont are presented in your letter of the 5th of July, 1792, to have trespassed, belong to the United States; yet on the 9th of the same month did my predecessor give you, as is admitted, positive assurances of the determination to discourage and repress the subject of your complaint. The necessary instructions were accordingly forwarded to that state. On examining your correspondence with my department, it does not appear that from the 9th of July, 1792, to the 10th of March, 1794 upwards of nineteen months, our government ever unrdestood from yourself, or any authority ofhis Britannic Majesty, that the original dissatisfaction continued. Nor was any discontent heard from that quarter through other channels, except what related to outrages upon our own citizens by British subjects. Then, indeed, thirty days after the hostile tribes of Indians had been assembled by Lord Dorchester, at Quebec, you renewyour remonstrance. Although it cannot be by any means believed, that this was written, in order to ausher in the intelligence, which soon after arrived on his speech; ye tit is difficult to account for so long an interval under the circumstances supposed. Nor ought my answer, although delayed for fifty days, until the 19th of April, 1794, to be constured into an assent to any charge, since at the end of that period, having been disappointed, as my letter shews, in one opportunity of information, and no other presenting itself, we were not in a capacity of contradicting your assertions. However, Sir, the instructions, issued in consequence of your application, conveyed positive orders for the correction of what, upon examination, should be found irregular.
2d, Among the points, to which you intimate that you might have adverted, is enumerated the fitting out of two privateers at Charleston, South Carolina. Whatever this transaction might have been, it probably occurred at the commencement of the war, and before the existence of the war was communicated to our government, by any of the powers engaged. Had such a transaction been known to the President in time, you can well judge from his actual conduct, what he would then have done. His proclamation on the 2nd of April, 1793, his call upon the state governors on the 26th of the same months, to co-operate with him in the work of impartiality and peace; the system of rules which he established, and which were imparted to you, are unerring indications of the spirit of those measures, on which he had determined. He suppressed the consular courts, which attempted to pass sentences of condemnation on captures; he restored several vessels to British owners; prosecutions have been instituted against the violaters of neutrality. In a word, Sir, what has been required, under the sanction of the law of nations, which had not been fulfilled? How many thingshave been spontaneously done, to evince our impartiality? Let me request you to review my predecessor’s letters to you of April 22, May 15, June 5, August 7, 8, 25, September 5 and 12, 1793: and to say if more could be well expected from us? After such demonstrations, it might have been hoped, that the equipment of these two privateers would not rise again in the shape of a charge. But the letter of the 5th of June being conceived of itself to be satisfactory, is here inserted.
“In the letter which I had the honour of writing you on the 15th of May, in answer to your several memorials of the 8th of that month, I mentioned that the President, reserved for further consideration, a part of the one which related to the equioment of two privateers in the port of Charleston. The part alluded to was that wherein you express your confidence that the executive government of the United States would pursue measures for represeeing such practices in the future, and for restoring to their rightful owners any captures which such privateers might be bring into the ports of the United States.”
“The President,after a full investigation of this subject, and the most mature consideration, has charged me to communicate to you, that the first part of this application is found to be jest, and that effectual measures are taken for preventing repetitions of the act therin complained of; but that the latter part, desiring restitution of the prizes, is understood to be inconsistent with the rules which govern such cafes, and would therefore be unjustifiable towards the other party
“The principal agents in this transaction were French citizens. Being within the United States, at the moment a war broke out between their own and another country, they determine to go in its defence; they purchase, arm, and equip a vessel, with their own money, man it themselves, receive a regular commission from their nation, depart out of the United states, and then commence hostilities by capturing a vessel If, under these circumstance,the commission of the captors was valid, the property, according to the laws of war, was, by the capture, transferred to them; and it would be an aggression on their nation, for the United states to rescue it from them, whether on the high seas, or on coming into their ports. If the commission was not valid and consequently, the property not transferred by the laws of war, to the capture, then the case would have been cognizable in our courts of admiralty, and the owners might have gone thither for redress. So that on neither supposition, would the executive be justifiable in interposing.
With respect to the United States, the transaction can in no wise be imputed to them. It was in the first moment of the war,ߝin one of the their most distant port.ߝbefore measures could be provided by the government to meet all the cases, which such a state of things was to produce, impossible to have known, and therefore impossible to have been prevented by that government.
“The moment it was known, the most energetic orders were sent to every state and port in the union to prevent a repetition of the accident. On a suggestion, that citizens of the United States had taken part in the act, one who was designated, was instantly committed to prison, for prosecution; one or two others have been since named, and committed in like manner; and should it appear, that there were still others, no measures would be spared to bring them to justice. The President had even gone farther; He has required, as a reparation of their breach of respect to the United States, that the vessels so armed and equipped, shall depart from our ports.
“You will see, Sir, in these proceedings of the President, unequivocal proofs of the line of strict right, which he means to pursue. The measures now mentioned, are taken in justice to the one part; the ulterior measure of seizing and restoring the prizes, is declined in justice to the other; and the evil, thus early arrested, will be of very limited effects; perhaps, indeed, soon disappear altogether.”
As to the permission from the governor of South Carolina, ??? ??? departures of ??? privateers ??? ???, you may assure yourself of a proper inquiry; and I take the liberty of requesting any evidence which you may have of it
3. With so many direct proofs in your hands, of the opinion constantly maintained by our government against the legality of captures in general made by illegal privateers, it is not easily explained, why the validity of those before the 5th of June, 1793, should be argued, from a refusal to restore them. The above received letter of that date, neither affirms nor disaffirms their validity; but declines the granting of restitutions being inconsistent with the rules which govern such cases. Those ruled are That if the commission be good, the capture is good; if the commission be bad, the capture is bad; but whether it be good or bad, is not decided; it being enough to prove, that the transaction, for the reasons assigned, can in no wise be imputed to the united States. But if captures of this kind, prior to the 5th of June, 1792, do really amount (as is conceived by some) to no very considerable value, this would of itself, lessen the importance of the insinuation.
4th. The secretary of war has undertaken to ascertain the precise state of the privateers le Petit Democrate and la Carmagnole, and the result will be communicated to you. In the mean time, it is a matter of some surprise, that vessels, whose single employment and profit, must consist in cruizing on the ocean, should have remained in the port of New-York during the whole winter, and probably up to the date of your letter (May 22d, 1794) May it not be presumed, that their activity has been checked by the intervention of the government? But, sir, if they have not been dismantled, your letter brings the first notice of the omission.
5th. It is true, that the sale of prizes made by French cruizers, has not been prohibited in the United States, and that our treaty with France has been so interpreted, as not to contemplate a freedom to sell. The next resort was to the law of nations; which was scrupulously searched by the executive, with the pure desire of discovering truth and justice to all. Upon this, as on many other occasions, the civilians differ; Vattel declaring, That a privateer may carry his prize into a neutral port, and there freely sell it; Martens affirming the same doctrine, if it has not been otherwise regulated by treaty; and others opposing it. in this sxhism among the writers,it was resolved by the President of the United States, to impose no restraint upon those sales; and to refer them; as affairs of legislation, to congress, at the earliest moment of their session. Thus much has been observed, not as my final anser, but merely to introduce an assurance, that I will follow you in the main discussion, whensoever you shall bring it forward in detail.
6th. Undoubtedly, sir, you have been misinformed, that the vessels of France have been permitted to depart from our ports, notwithstanding the embargo. As the history of the executive proceedings is neither long, nor entangled, it shall be frankly stated to you. As soon as the embargo was laid, expresses and advice boats were dispatched, to notify the officer of the customs and revenue cutters, and all others concerned in its execution. The resolution imposing it, involved all foreign nations; the instructions from the United States, favoured no nation, directly or indirectly. A French snow, La Camille, which had descended the river Delaware as low as New-Castle on her voyage, was stopped by an officer of the United States; and the President, adhering to perfect impartiality could not think himself justified, to gratify the Minister of the French Republic with a passport. Passports being kept under the special view of the President were issued only after his examinatino of each case, and the total number of them does not exceed twenty-six. Among them, was one to yourself; one to an agent who was sent to the West-Indies, upon a business connected with the late captures and condemnation in various British courts of admiralty; one to a citizen whose vessel was under trial in Bermuda, and who was anxious to forward the British instructions of the 8th January, 1794, with a hope of rescuing her from confiscation; one to the friends of Joshua Barney then in Jamica; twenty for the accomodation of several unfortunate inhabitants of St. Domingo, to some of whome our government was advancing money for their support, and who could no longer endure their separation from home; one to some other persons in peculiar circumstances, desirous of returning to the West-Indies; and in the last instance, one to the Minister of the French Republic. If, therefore, by any other passport, or permission; the embargo has been relaxed, it was unauthorized by the President, and unlawful. The distance of Hampton Road from this city, being more than three hundred miles, the officers of government, resident here, could not learn, at the moment, what was passing there. No intelligence of an official nature of any real importance. No complaint from any other foreign minister, or any othe rpseron, has since reached us. If, Sir, you should happen to possess the information, I ask it as a favour, of you, to designate, who granted the permission, and under what circumstances the French vessels left that road? An investigation, however, has been, and shall be pursued, on our part, without delay. If the law has been violated, it shall be vindicated; but a violation of law, is very remote from a permission of the government.
7th. The uniformly unfriendly treatment which the British officers are said to have experienced in the United States, cannot be answered, until it shall be more explicitly defined. Did this treatment break forth in words or actions, not cognizable by law? If so, no complaint can be offered to government. Or in words or action, which were so cognizable? Our courts are free to foreigners against citizens, and independent of influence. To yourself let me appeal, that on the representations, which you thought proper to lay before the President, in relation to the British consul at Baltimore, the British consul at Norfolk, and the commander of the DȰdalus frigate, the necessary measures were promptly adopted; the result has been transmitted to you, and no objection has been returned. Nor was the government backward in its interference in the late affair of Philadelphia. And these eing the only occurrences of the kind within my knowledge, i trust, that no example can be produced of government refusing to extend its protection on every seasonable occasion.
8th. The events at Newport, in Rhode-Island are accurately detailed in the proceedings, which I have the honour of enclosing to you. Within the limits of the present letter, I cannot do more; as it might be an useless talk to detain you with remarks, when non of them might be adapted to the animadversions which you mediate. It is enough, therefore, for me to engage, that these animadversions, whenever they shall appear, shall receive particular attention.
Although, Sir, your charges against the United States are sketched only; the impression, which may have been intended, cannot be counteracted too soon, by such general elucidations, as at a future day may be more minutely unfolded. But let these facts be as they will; are they indicative of a hostile disposition in the United States, and ought they ultimately to produce a state of war? This is not the place for us to retort our complaints. But compare them with the whole of your catalogue; and say, what may our feeling be? Yet we prefer peace.
9th. As Lord Dorchester’s endeavour to stir up the Indians against us, is without justification; so is the expedition of Governor Simcoe without pretext.
That you have received no intelligence of such an event having actually occurred, leaves room to conjecture, that you may not be without intelligence of it having been designed; and that it has therefore probably taken place. But you insist that much will depend on the place intended for the fort. Let the point allotted for it on the Miami, be unknown; the place is for our immediate purpose adequatley market out by eing on the river. A single glance of the eye over the map, proves that its source is within the limits of the United States. In its whole length it is flanked on each side by our territory. Its very mouth is to the Southward of our line, as recognised by our treaty with his Britannic Majesty. On no part therefore of the rapids can a fort be built, but within out country.
This being fixed, your argument is, that if the fort be for the purpose of protecting subjects of his majesty, residing in districts, dependent on the fort of Detroit, or of preventing that fortress from being straitened by the approach of the American army; the principle of statu quo, until the final arrangement of the point in discussion between the two countries shall be concluded, will strictly apply.
To change by hostile movements the condition of a thing, concerning which a treaty is opened, not being consonant with the spirit of adjustment, the principle of statu quo has been generally adopted. The nearest point of the rapids to Detroit cannot be less than fifty miles. They have never been considered, they never could be considered, as appending to Detroit. But you proceed and say, tha tthe proposed assumption of territory may depend on districts, which depend on Detroit. It is too obvious to dwell upon the remark, that if Detroit which lies within the United States, becomes the first station from which a district may be generated, one encroachment may beget another ad infinitum. It will, however, be very acceptable to understand with accuracy, how much of our territory towards the Miami was actually possessed by the military establishment of Detroit at the time of peace. I mention the military establishment; because if any subjects of his Britainnic majesty reside beyond the line of actual possess, they are, as being within our limits, under our jurisdiction.
To prevent the fortress of Detroit from being straitened by the approach of the American army, is either a new modification of the preceding idea, or founded upon a untenable suspicion. For the question must recur, are the rapids an appendage to Detroit? Were they connected with it at the peace? If convenience only were to be consulted, and a wide range of unsettled territory, by being suitable to the momentary circumstances of one nation, is to be transferred for that reason alone from another, which is the true proprietor, we might even then controvert the conveniency of the rapids to Detroit. If right be consulted, our right is complete. Is then our territory to be thus seized? Nay, more sir, I am authorized to say to you explicitly, that the American army has no instructions to straiten or annoy that post; and that if the descent on the rapids was dictated by this consideration, it ought to be discontinued without cause.
I have the honour, Sir, to be with great respect, Your most obedient servant, EDM. RANDOLPH.
Mr. Hammond, Minister Plenipotentiary of his Britannic Majesty.
True Copy. GEO. TAYLOR, jun.
Citation: Glasgow Advertiser (Glasgow, United Kingdom), 21 July 1794, available at the Scissors and Paste Database, http://www.scissorsandpaste.net/375.