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Alefage of the President of the United States to both Houses of
Congress, April 3, 1798. Gentlemen of the Senate, and Gentlemen of the
House of Representatives, IN compliance with the request of the House of Representa
tives, expressed in their refolution of the fecond of this month, I tranfmit to both Houses those instructions to and dis. patches from the envoys extraordinary of the United States to the French republic, which were mentioned in my message of the rigth of March last, omitting only fome names, and a few expreslions descriptive of the persons. .
I request that they may be confidered in confidence, until the members of Congress are fully poffefled of their contents, and thall have had opportunity to deliberate on the consequences of their publication, after which time I subinit them to your wifdom.
Instructions to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Marshall, and
Elbridge Gerry, Envoys Extraordinary and Ministers Plenie potentiary to the French: Republic, referred to in the Mejlage of the President of the United States, of the 3d April. . · Gentlemen, Department of State, July 15, 1797.
IT is known to you, that the people of the United States of America entertained a warm and sincere affection for the people of France, ever fince their arms were united in the war with Great Britain, which ended in the full and format acknowledgment of the independence of these states. It is known to you that this affection was ardent, when the French determined to reform their government and establish it on the bafis of liberty ; that liberty in which the people of the United States were born, and which, in the conclusion of the war above mentioned, was finally and firmly secured. It is known to you, that this affedion rose to enthusiasm, when the war was kindled between France and the powers of Europe, which were combined against her for the avowed purpose of restoring the monarchy; and every where vows were heard for the success of the French arms. Yet, during this period, France expressed no with that the United States should depart from their neutrality. And while no duty required us to enter into the war, and our best interests urged us to remain at peace, the government determined to take a neutral station ; which being taken, the duties of an impartial ueutrality became indispensably
binding. binding. Hence the government early proclaimed to our citizens the nature of those duties, and the consequences of their violation.
The minister of France, Mr. Genet, who arrived about this time, by his public declaration, confirmed the idea, that France did not desire us to quit the ground we had taken. His measures, however, were calculated to destroy our neutrality, and to draw us into the war.
The principles of the proclamation of neutrality, founded on the law of nations, which is the law of the land, were afterwards recognised by the national legislature, and the observance of them enforced by specific penalties, in the act of Congress, passed the 5th of June 1794. By these principles and laws, the acts of the Executive, and the decisions of the courts of the United States, were regulated.
A government thus fair and upright in its principles, and just and impartial in its conduct, might have confidently hoped to be fecure against formal official cenfure: but the United States have not been so fortunate. The acts of their government, in its various branches, though pure in principle and impartial in operation, and conformable to their indispensable rights of soveteignty, have been assigned as the cause of the offensive and injurious measures of the French republic. For proofs of the former all the acts of the government may be vouched; while the aspersions so freely uttered by the French ministers, the refusal to hear the minister of the United States, specially charged to enter on amicable discussions on all the topics of complaint, the decrees of the Executive Directory and of their agents, the depredations on our commerce, and the violence against the persons of our citizens, are evidences of the latter. These injuries and depre. dations will constitute an important subject of your discussions with the government of the French republic; and for all these wrongs you will seek redress. .
In respect to the depredations on our commerce, the principal ! objects will be, to agree to an equitable mode of exainining and deciding the claims of our citizens, and the manner and periods of making them compensation. As to the first, the seventh article of the British, and the twenty-first of the Spanish treaty, present approved precedents to be adopted with France. The proposal made of adjusting those claims by commillioners appointed on each side, is so perfectly fair, we cannot imagine it will be refused. But when the claims are adjusted, if payment in specie cannot be obtained, it may be found necesary to agree, in behalf of our citizens, that they shall accept public securities payable with interest at such periods as the state of the French finances thall render practicable. These periods you will endeavour, as far as possible, to shorten. Not only the recent depredations under colour of the decrees of Vol. VII.
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the Directory, of the 2d of July 1796, and the ad of March 1707, or under the decrees of their agents, or the illegal sen. tences of their tribunals, but all prior ones, not already satisfactorily adjusted, should be put in this equitable train of settlement. To cancel'many, or all of the last-inentioned claims, might be the effect of the decree of the Executive Directory of the ad of March last, concerning the decree of the gth of May 1793: but this being an ex poft facto regulation, as well as a violation of the treaty between the United States and France, cannot be obligatory on the former. Indeed, the greater part, probably nearly all the captures and confiscations in question, have been committed in direct violation of that treaty, or of the law of nations. But the injuries arising from the capture of enemies property in vessels of the United States may not be very extensive, and if for such captured property the French government will, agreeably to the law of nations, pay the freight and reasonable demurrage, we shall not on this account any farther contend. But of ship timber and naval stores taken and confiscated by the French, they ought to pay the full value ; because our citizens continued their traffic in those articles under the faith of the treaty with France. On these two points we ought to expect that the French government will not refuse to do justice: and the more because it has not, at any period of the war, expressed its desire that the commercial treaty should in this respect be altered.
Besides the claims of our citizens for depredations on their property, there are many arising from exprels contracts made with the French government, or its agents, or founded on the seizure of their property. in French ports. Other claims have arisen from the long detention of a multitude of our vessels in the ports of France. The wrong hereby done to our citizens was acknowledged by the French government, and in some, perhaps in most of the cases, small payments towards indemnifications have been made : the residue still remains to be claimed.
All these just demands of our citizens will merit your attention. The beit poflible means of compensation must be attempted. There will depend on what you shall discover to be praéticable in relation to the French finances. But an exception must be made in respect to debts due to our citizens by the contracts of the French government and its agents, if they are comprehended in any ftipulation; and an option reserved to them, jointly or indi. vidually, either to accept the means of payment which you shall stipulate, or resort to the French government directly for the fulfilment of its contracts.
Although the reparation for losses sustained by the citizens of the United States, in consequence of irregular or illegal captures or condemnations, or forcible seizures or detentions, is of very high importance, and is to be impressed with the greatest earneft
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ness, yet it is not to be insisted on as an indispensable condition of the proposed treaty. You are not, however, to renounce these claims of our citizens, 'nor to ftipulate that they be assumed by the United States as a loan to the French government.
In respect to the alterations of the commercial treaty with France, in the two cases which have been principal subjects of complaint on her part, viz. enemies property in neutral ships, and the articles contraband of war; although France can have no right to claim the annulling of stipulations at the moment when by both parties they were originally intended to operate ; yet if the French government press for alterations, the President has no difficulty in substituting the principles of the law of nations, as ftated in the 17th and 18th articles of our commercial treaty with Great Britain, to those of the 230 and 24th articles of our commercial treaty: and in respect to provisions, and other articles not usually deemed contraband, you are to agree only on a temporary compromise, like that in the 18th article of the British treaty, and of the same duration. If, however, in order to satisfy France, now she is at war, we change the two important articles before mentioned, then the 14th article of the French treaty, which subjedts the property of the neutral nation found on board enemies fhips to capture and condemnation, inuft of course be abolished.
We have witnessed so many erroneous constructions of the treaty with France, even in its plainest parts, it will be necessary to examine every article critically, for the purpose of preventing, as far as human wisdom can prevent, all future misinterpretations. The kind of documents necessary for the protection of the neutral vessels should be enumerated, and minutely described ; the cases in which a sea-letter should be required may be specified; the want of a sea-letter should not of itself be a cause of confiscation, where other reasonable proof of property is produced; and where such proof is furnished, the want of a sea-letter should go no further than to save the captor from damages for detaining and bring. ing in the neutral vessel. The proportions of the vessel's crew which may be foreigners, should be agreed on. Perhaps it will be expedient to introduce divers other regulations conformably to the marine laws of France. Whenever these are to operate on the commerce of the United States, our safety requires, that, a's far as possible, they be fixed by treaty. And it will be desirable to ftipulate against any ex poft fallò laws or regulation, under any pretence whatever.
Great Britain has often claimed a right, and practised upon it, to prohibit neutral nations carrying on a commerce with her enemies which had not been allowed in time of peace. On this head it will be desirable to come to an explicit understan ing with France; and, if pollible, 10 obviate the claim by an express stipulation. Z 2
Such extreme depredations have been committed on the commerce of neutrals, and especially on the United States, by the citizens of France, under pretence that her enemies particularly Great Britain) have done the same things, it will be desirable to have it explicitly ftipulated, that the conduct of an enemy towards a neutral power Thall not authorize or excuse the other belligerent power in any departure from the law of nations, or the stipulations of the treaty : especially that the vessels of the neutral nation shall never be captured or detained, or their property confiscated or injured, because bound to or from an enemy's port, except the case of a blockaded port, the entering into which may be prevented according to the known rule of the law of nations. And it may be expedient to define a blockaded place or port to be one actually invested by land or naval forces, or both; and that no declaration of a blockade shall have any effect without such actual investment. And no commercial right whatever shall be abandoned which is fecuted to neutral powers by the European law of nations.
The foregoing articles being those which the French government has made the ostensible grounds of its principal complaints, they have naturally been first brought to view. But the proposed alterations and arrangements suggest the propriety of revising all our treaties with France. In such revision, the first object that will attract your attention is, the reciprocal guarantee in the ith article of the treaty of alliance. The guarantee we are perfectly willing to renounce. The guarantee by France of the liberty, sovereignty, and independence of the United States, will add nothing to our security, while, on the contrary, our guarantee of the poffeflions of France in America will perpetually expose us to the risk and expense of war, or to disputes and questions concerning our nasional faith.
When Mr. Genet was sent as the minister of the French republic to the United States, its situation was embarrassed, and the success of its measures problematical. In such circumstances it was natural that France should turn her eye to the mutual guarantee; and accordingly it was required, in Mr. Genet's instructions, to be “an essential clause in the new treaty," which he was to propose ; ard on the ground, that “it nearly concerned the peace and prosperity of the French nation, that a people, whose resources increase beyond all calculation, and whom nature had placed so near their rich colonies, should become interested by their own engagements in the preservation of those islands.” But at this time, France, powerful by her victories, and secure in her triumphs, may less regard the reciprocal guarantee with the United States, and be willing to relinquish it. As a substitute for the reciprocal guarantce, may be proposed a mutual renunciation of the same territories and possessions that were subjects of the guarantee and renunciation in the 6th and 11th articles of the treaty of alli