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government proceeded to measures teers, bears date at the end of the
which refpected the foreign relations of the republic.
In the beginning of December, a board of admiralty was inftituted, with the intention of promoting order, economy, energy, and that promptitude and fecrecy which naval defigns and operations fo often require, and which can be enfured only by unity of affent and action. It was intended for the purpose of g ving the fupreme maritime authority that preponderance and dignity requifite for exciting emulation, and reftoring the marine to its former lufire and glory. The commiffioners to whom the first conful gave it in charge to inquire into, and propole the beft means for anfwering the ends propofed by that eftablifh ment, were inftructed to investigate the inflitutions of the English marine, and the naval administrations of other countries.
The commerce of France, during 1799, was reduced, as it had been for feveral years before, to a mere piratical trade, which had its advantages and difadvantages; but of which the difadvantages greatly preponderated. As this is a matter of the higheft importance in the prefent period of extended intercourfe, when all nations are, more or lefs, united by the golden chain of commerce, and the reciprocity of their interefts, becomes every year and day more and more apparent, it may not be improper to beftow uponit more attention than is permitted by our plan to the temporary intrigues and expedients of politicians, which, though they may perhaps be more amufing, afford lefs ground for ufeful inference and inftruction.
The first act of French jurifprudence, refpecting corfairs or priva
fourteenth century. From that period, down to the middle of the feventeenth, this branch of maritime legislation, in every country in Europe, was involved in a chaos of obfcurity, confufion, and contradiction. At laft, by certain articles in the treaty of the Pyrenees, it was established, that merchandise of any kind, found on board an enemy's fhip, and to whomfoever belonging, might be confifcated: at the fame time, the goods even of enemies, not contraband, were to be safe to their owners, when carried in neutral veffels. This twofold principle, that, on the one hand, an enemy's flag condemns all that it covers, and, on the other, that neutral or free fhips make free goods, was fuperfeded, in fome degree, by an ordinance of the French king and parliament of 1681, by which it was declared, that all fhips carrying any merchandife of an enemy, as well as any merchandise found on board an enemy, fhould be equally confidered as lawful prizes. A regulation of 1744 went ftill farther. It confifcated not only the fabrics or manufactures of an enemy, but whatever was of the phyfical produce of his country, whether raw materials, or thofe wrought into any fpecies of manufacture.
It is, however, to be obferved, that, as the French government was obliged to apply, as well as to make the law, it was judged good policy to make the law very fevere, that it might admit, without any injury to the ftate, of modification in practice. Accordingly we find, that, in all wars before the prefent, in every inftance in which a vigorous application of the maritime law might be inconfiftent with the interefts of the
ftate, the French government never failed, either by a declaration in the name of the king, or fimply by a minifterial letter, to prefcribe the decifion that was to be given, or even, in certain cafes, to modify the decifions already made.
The French government was induced to obferve more than ufual management and refpect, in their treatment of neutral veffels, by their new connection of friends and allies, with the revolted British colonies in America, in 1778: because every thing that fhould be done in favour of neutral ships, and of the free and unmolefted navigation of the feas, would be, in fact, a blow ftruck against England. No fooner was the famous treaty for an armed neutrality ratified by the northern powers, than the French government, in order to give an emphatic proof of its regard to neutral veffels, and the freedom of navigation, acceded to the principle and spirit of that theory, and invited the Spaniards to do the fame. All French privateers were ordered to pay respect to neutral flags; and the councils for maritime affairs, or, as an Englithman would fay, the courts of admiralty, received orders to act in conformity with this new ordi
The national convention, in 1793, finding itfelf in the full poffeffion of all political powers, granted letters of marque, with orders that the laws concerning prizes fhould remain on the old footing: on which, as already obferved, the executive government took upon itself to interpret or modify the maritime law,, according to circumftances. But, as any arbitrary interpretation or modification of laws is utterly in
compatible with a free government, it appeared indifpenfably necellary to the national affembly, after the executive committee and the committee of public fafety, which had for fome time taken the manageinent of the prize bufinefs, was (on account of their tyranny) fuppreffed, to refer this business, by a decree of November, 1796, to the ordinary tribunals; and now it was that the French privateers fell with little ceremony or diftinction on neutral veffels, as well as on thofe of enemies. To former regulations new laws were added, of a nature to confirm an opinion, already very prevalent, that privateering could not be too much extended or encouraged.
The French directory, in 1799, confidered this piratical fyftem, both as it related to the internal profperity of the kingdom, and as it might affect its credit, refpectability, and general interefts in its various connections with other nations.
In the moft flourishing period of the French marine, the number offeamen, as appeared by the public enrolment of their names, amounted to eighty thoufand. They were now reduced to half that number. It was the common fate of privateers to fall, fooner or later, into the hands of the English. But, even when fuccefsful, they were obliged to put their beft hands into the prizes which they took; and, when the fe prizes were retaken, as often happened, both men and fhips were loft to the republic. The butinefs of privateering appeared to have abforbed the whole naval energy of the ftate. The arfenals and dockyards were deferted. Ships of war could not be manned, for want of feamen. In proportion as priva[E3]
teers increased, the navy of France was diminished and weakened. In the mean time neutral fhips were frightened from the French ports and coafts. The ufual outlets were wanting for the productions of the foil and other commodities. The violent bufinefs of piracy might flourish in five or fix places, but the republic, on the whole, deprived of the general influence of peaceable commerce, paid two prices for all colonial productions, while the productions of France were funk in their value, by the want of means of exportation. Even fhips laden with naval flores for the French government were often taken by French privateers, fometimes condemned, and never recovered easily. It appeared, on the whole, to the directory, that, as neither the number or qualifications of the feamen to be found bore any proportion to the exigencies of the navy, every privateer was a blow ftruck at the marine of the republic. That, as neither could the French navy be furnished with provifions or ftores, nor the colonies be fupplied with neceffaries, nor the produce of France exported without the aid of neutral veffels, the French had weakened themselves with their own hands. With regard to foreign powers, the refult of the French fyftem of maritime affairs was, from its juftice and moderation during the first years of the prefent war, greatly to their credit; and this was enhanced by the piracies of the English. It was against the English alone that neutral powers armed and fent convoys with their fhips, and this very much at the inftigation of the French government; which, in its negociations with maritime powers, fignified that it
was not their plan to make peace with England on any other terms than thofe of their fubfcribing fuch a fundamental code of maritime laws, as fhould for ever fecure the rights of neutrality to pacific nations.
Thefe declarations, however, which were confirmed by the whole conduct of the directory, did not, as they expected, rally all maritime powers around the republic, for maintaining the freedom of the ocean. The northern powers appeared cold and selfish in all their intercourfes with the republic, and made but a very feeble refiftance to the continued violation of their neutrality on the part of the English.
The French government and nation having equal caufe of complaint againft the piracies of the English, and the torpid fubmiffion of the neutral maritime powers, judged it neceffary to depart, for a time, from the liberal maxims which they wifned univerfally to establish. The republic, that it might no longer be the victim of a falfe generolity, announced to the neutral states its intention of treating them precisely in the fame manner in which they allowed themselves to be treated by the English. This decree was dated fourteenth of Mellidor (fecond of July,) 1779.
This measure was followed immediately by the beft effects. The English became more cautious and difcreet in their feizures of neutral fhips bound for France. The owners of neutral veffels, feized and detained with their cargoes, obtained readier payment, But, while new encouragement was thus given to privateering, the French government determined not to give up the right formerly exercifed by the exe
cutive government, but to watch over the ufe that individual corfairs made, in fact, of the power granted them, and to judge ultimately concerning refults in particular cafes, according to the public intereft, which required that the actual exercile of piracy fhould be confined, on the whole, to juft reprifals. The confequence was, that the neutral powers thewed fomewhat of more Spirit in defence of their rights; but the privateers abandoning themfelves to an unlimited and licentious exercise of the decree in their favour, carried their indifcriminate piracies to fuch a length, as to drive wholly away from the French coafts thofe neutral veffls, which good policy would invite and encourage, in order to raife the value of the produce and merchandise of France, and lower the price of freight and infurance. The French government, taught this by experience, laid it down as a maxim, that the most extended and unlimited piracy is by no means a genuine fource of national wealth and profperity. They were farther abundantly fenfible, that an agricultural ftate, fuch as France, rich in phylical productions and various induftry, which confumes a great deal, and fhould export a great deal, i particularly interested in the prefervation of all commercial relations, in their greatest extent and fecurity.
The directory, having reprefented thefe things in a memorial, addreffed to the legislative bodies, concluded that it was high time to adopt fome lyftem of marine affairs, that fhould be better fuited than the prefent to the intereft of the countr, and fitted for curbing and overthrowing the monopolization of the English. They declared it to be their fixed
opinion, that, in the prefent circumftances, the liberty of privateering, inftead of being farther encouraged and extended, fhould be reftrained and modified.
This memorial, refpecting the marine trade, was referred by the council of five hundred to a fecret committee, as it was connected, in feveral points, with the relations and connections of France with foreign flates. The subject of it was under confideration, but nothing determined on when the directory and legislative councils were fufpended by the confular government. matter of fuch confequence did not efcape the attention of Buonaparte, A decree was paffed annulling all the peculating decifions and practices of Merlin and others, refpecting neutral vessels, and reftoring the laws and ulages of the monarchy in 1778.
In these, and other measures of the confular government, for the correction of abuses, and the fecurity and tranquillity of the state, it is evident that they were anxious to difplay, and, no doubt, were actuated fincerely hy a fpirit of moderation, harmony, concord, and a defire of, at leaft, internal peace: agreeably to the toast of Buonaparte, at the feaft in the Temple of Victors, "the union of all the French."
In the mean time, while the confuls were thus occupied, the commillions were employed, under their influence and direction in framing a new constitution, the ground work of which was, the form of an ideal republic, drawn up formerly by the ablé Sieyes, which he had prepared for the convention, and to whofe judgement he wished to have fubmitted it, in 1793-we fay wished to have fubmitted it; for, after he had afcended
a fummary of the best arguments in
the tribunal, in the council of five
parts of his plan, there was a general cry of bas chimeres metaphyfiques, and the abbé was obliged to defcend from his ftation without a complete hearing. In the abhé's conftitution, the fupreme magiftracy was to be invefted in a grand elector, who was to have under him two confuls: one for external, and the other for internal affairs, holding their places at the will of the grand elector, and alfo a confervatory jury for life, which was to name, from popular lifts, the legiflative bodies, and which was alfo to have a power of revoking, or abforbing, fuch citizens as, from talents and ambition, fhould acquire undue influence in the state. was of little confequence whether It the chief magiftrate fhould be called firft conful or grand elector: but the laft queftion of abforption, as it was called, was of real importance to a man who was confcious of poffeffing a great afcendancy in the ftate, and, not improbably, had it at heart, above all other things, to maintain it. Sieyes and Buonaparte, however, were obftinately divided in both thefe points. The genius of Buonaparte, as ufual, prevailed, and the title of grand elector was rejected, as well as the fyftem of abforption; not, however, without a foftening boon to the abbé, as will by and by be related.
The new conftitution was read before the three confuls, and gave rife to a difcuffion which lafted till very late in the night. It was allo difcuffed, at different meetings of the two commiflions, where it met with very little oppofition. As
origin of fociety, examined in what Cabanis, after confidering the manner the different governments, known to us, derived their origin. He reviewed the advantages and difadvantages of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. He fhewed that the reprefentative fytiem muft embrace every thing good in thefe different forms of focial establishments; and he concluded that, in the prefent ftate of circumftances and of opinion, that fyftem is the only one which can both fecure to government, and maintain peace public liberty, give fufficient force with folidity.
form of government, faid he, is "The great advantage of that that the people, without exercising. any public function, can, neverthelefs, point out for every fituation of truft and dignity, the men who enjoy their confidence. people make laws-let them not Let not the exercife the duties of adminiftration-let them not poffefs the power of judging; but let their legiflators, their executive magiftrates, and their judges be always cholen from the number of perfons whom they fhall point out for such stations.
lated to exercife by themselves But if the people are not calcupublic functions; they, neverthelefs, are qualified to appreciate the merits of those who are best suited to public fituations. They ought not, therefore, directly to make any choice. The electoral bodies, then
Down with all metaphyfical chimeras,