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other country, and it is provided “that no shelter or refuge shall be given in their ports to such vessels as have made a prize upon the subjects or citizens of either of said parties.” But these regulations are expressed to be subject to existing treaties with other nations.
This treaty with Great Britain was interpreted and declared by us as a virtual abrogation of our treaty with France as to her right to use our ports as provided in our treaty with her. Against this view, of course, France protested with earnest remonstrance.
The exclusion of French privateers and their prizes from our ports was a serious matter for France, inasmuch as Great Britain had taken possession of nearly all her West India Islands; and she was left with only one or two ports of resort in America for refuge or condemnation of prizes, while our ports, by the treaty with England of 1796, were open to England for that purpose.
On the news of the negotiations for this treaty with Great Britain coming to the United States, great sympathy was expressed for France, especially by the Anti-Federalist or Democratic party, as it began then to be called, under its leaders, Jefferson and Monroe.
Chief Justice Marshall wrote thus: “The Federalists were overwhelmed with reproaches and charges of attachment to England. The causes of complaint against Great Britain were made the daily topic of excited denunciation, while the flagrant violations of treaty and the open depredation upon our commerce by France were passed over in silence, or treated as the natural results of the conduct of her enemies."
So strong was the sympathy with France at this time, and opposition to the Jay treaty, that mobs threatened violence to its supporters—Mr. Jay was burnt in effigy—the British Minister was insulted-and, in New York, Mr. Hamilton was stoned at a public meeting. Many of the State legislatures protested against it, and the debates in Congress upon it were bitter and denunciatory. And subsequently, when war was threatening with France, the tricolored cockade was sported in the streets in opposition to the black cockade adopted by the Federalists and the troops who were being enrolled for the purpose of defense against French aggressions.
THE DEPREDATIONS. Irritated by the unfriendly action of the United States government in the above procedures, France took no pains to conceal her feelings of indignation, which manifested themselves in the attacks on our commerce, which began as early as 1792, and continued down through the year 1800.
These attacks are familiarly known as the “French spoliations before 1801," or, more specifically speaking, prior to July 31st, 1801, the date of the ratification of the Convention with France hereafter referred to.
The early seizures of our merchantmen by the French were made, it was claimed, on the ground of unavoidable necessity. It will be remembered that in 1792 France was in the throes of a horrible civil contention, which threatened her annihilation. Her crops had failed; her manufactures, trade, and commerce were paralyzed; nearly all Europe rose up against her in horror and wrath; and, with the intention of starving her into submission, her ports were blockaded, and all channels of supply were closed. Neutral vessels were prevented from taking cargo within her territories, and, under the British orders in Council, were seized if they endeavored to do so. At least 478 American vessels were captured in seeking French ports, by the British, during this period. Thus our commerce became a prey to both French and English attack.
In a communication from the French Minister of Foreign Affairs of April 14, 1793, in response to a letter of remonstrance from our then Minister at Paris, he thus feebly explains the attacks on our vessels :
“The enemies of France have openly usurped the right of seizing all the provisions which are destined to it, and even all the Frenchmen found on neutral vessels ; and the Republic wil! so act against them, by way of reprisal. We hope that the Government of the United States will attribute to their true cause the abuses of which you complain, as well as other violations of which our cruisers may render themselves guilty, in the course of the present war. It must perceive how difficult it is to contain, within just limits, the indignation of our marines and in general of all French patriots against a people who speak the same language, and having the same habits, as the free Americans. The difficulty of distinguishing our allies from our enemies has often been the cause of offenses committed on board your vessels."
The depredations committed by France, made while she was in this state of emergency, went on increasing in numbers and violence, as her emergency became greater, and as she became more and more isolated under the pressure of war.
As the French Government, to a certain extent, recognized these depredations as unlawful, and made promise of indemnity, our Government seems to have tolerated them, with but feeble remonstrance.
But, in 1796, after the ratification and promulgation of our treaty with England opening our ports to her, the wrath of France was so increased, that full license seems to have been given to her privateers for unlimited attacks on our commerce.
M. Adet, the French Plenipotentiary in Philadelphia, wrote as follows to our Secretary of State:
"The undersigned, Minister Plenipotentiary of the French Republic, now fulfills to the Secretary of State of the United States, a painful but sacred duty. He claims, in the name of American honor, in the name of the faith of treaties, the execution of that contract which assured to the United States their existence and which France regarded as the pledge of the most sacred Union between two people, the freest upon Earth.”
French privateers now attacked our merchantmen everywhere, and almost swept our commerce from the seas. The French Government, even, hired out its vessels of war, as privateers, and the French Commissioners in St. Domingo and other ports still held by France, not only encouraged but instigated these depredations. They declared that the Americans were perfidious, corrupt, and the friends of England, and that, therefore, their vessels should no longer enter French ports, unless carried in by force.
From every French and Spanish colonial port cruisers started out for the direct purpose of seizing American ships; and the administration of many colonies subsisted, and individuals became enriched from the proceeds of these prizes.
These operations resulted in the seizure of more than 1500 American vessels—every one of which was illegally captured; in the teeth of existing treaties, and of all principles of international law.
Often the captured vessels were taken into our own ports, and condemned under the very eyes of the government, by self-constituted French consular tribunals.
The agents of France at St. Domingo reported to the home government “ that having found no resource, in finance, and knowing the unfriendly disposition of the Americans, and, to avoid perishing in distress, they had armed for cruising; and that already 87 cruisers were at sea."
These colonial commissioners at St. Domingo also issued orders to take all vessels bound to or from English ports; and condemned them without the formality of trial, or through tribunals composed often of the owners of the capturing privateers. Captures were also made of American vessels going from a neutral to a French port; and the proceedings, if any, before the prize tribunals were wholly ex parte, the owners not being allowed to make defense. In fact American vessels, at this time, and their cargoes were seized and appropriated without any shadow of law or justice.
In every mercantile town near our coast, merchants and ship-owners. were ruined, and respectable and thriving families reduced to poverty.
Many were made insane under their losses, or were turned into almshouses or otherwise became burdens on the charity of the public.
The crews of vessels taken were turned out in foreign ports to starve
or marched off, as English prisoners, or as prisoners for debt, to French prisons, and their effects stolen.
The French government made arbitrary and obscure regulations requiring all American vessels on the seas to have ship's rolls in a certain form, and also a sea letter or passport, certified to by a French consul. It was no excuse if the vessel had observed every United States regulation, or that her papers were entirely correct according to them.
The French privateers accordingly treated as an enemy all American vessels not having the above papers, and seized all the cargo, whether belonging to neutrals or not.
They gave no notice or warning of what was required, and vessels were summarily taken and disposed of, whose officers were entirely ignorant of any of the new regulations.
It was said that Merlin, when Minister of Justice, received 4,000 louis from the owners of privateers for a ruling or direction in their favor, concerning the possession by vessels of the roll of the crew.
In a letter from Mr. Pinckney, of March 23d, 1797, to the Secretary of State of the United States, speaking of the seizure and condemnation of three American vessels for some want of compliance with the French regulations, he says:
"A French privateer of St. Malo has captured and sent into Isle de Bas an Ainerican brig from New York, bound to London, with a very valuable cargo of sugars. The pretense for capturing her has not yet been communicated to me; but, as the French seem determined to distress our commerce as much as they can, pretenses for condemnation are easily fabricated. I feel poignantly these continual violences offered to our trade and property, and that I am so situated that I cannot afford my countrymen the protection they ought to receive from our Government, nor show them that I even remonstrate against the power which oppresses them. To prevent hearing the firm representations which our American Minister would have found himself obliged to present on account of these rapacious depredations, is one reason, I presume, that the Directory will not permit any one in that capacity to reside in France."
On April 4th, 1797, the Secretary of State wrote to Mr. Pinckney as follows:
“The depredations of the French in the West Indies are continued with increased outrage, and we have advices of captures and condemnations in Europe which apply to no principle heretofore known and acknowledged in the civilized world. You say that a *late emigrant, now at Paris, has assured the French Government that the United States are not of greater consequence, nor ought to be treated with more respect, than Geneva or Genoa. But, is it possible that the Directory can credit his opinion? And must we be obliged to think that such an idea of our weakness regulates the conduct of the French towards this country?
"You know how ill-founded is the emigrant's opinion, and have the means of appreciating the motives that influence the Directory. You do not name the emigrant; we conjecture that you mean Talleyrand."
In March, 1798, Talleyrand, acting for the French Government, made a formal complaint to the American envoys who were first sent over to settle these differences, but who failed to come to any agreement. Among other things, he says:
That, from the moment the English treaty was made, the United States seemed to feel itself freed from the necessity of keeping any measures with France, notwithstanding the assurances that had been given to its Ministers that the treaty would in no respect change the existing state of neutrality of the United States; yet, in 1796, notice was given to the French cruisers that they could no longer, as had then been practised, be permitted to sell their prizes within the ports of the United States.”
In a report of the Secretary of State to Congress, in January, 1799, it was stated that these depredations then amounted to over $20,000,000 in value, and besides that American citizens had been subjected to insults, stripes, wounds, torture and imprisonment.
Further, to add to these insults and outrages, France, by a decree of the Directory, declared that all American seamen, when making part of the crew of an enemy's ship, even if put on board it by force, should be deemed pirates, and treated as such.
In spite of these hostile declarations and subsequent acts of retaliation on the part of our Government, the French Government, although it had laid an embargo on our vessels in their ports, did not consider that there was war between the two countries. The French Government officials declared, “ such is the repugnance of the French Government to consider the United States as enemies, that notwithstanding their hostile depredations, it means to wait until it be irresistibly forced to it by real hostilities."
RETALIATION BY THE UNITED STATES.
All these decrees and acts of the French Government, and the outrages committed by its citizens, demonstrated to our Government that decisive steps should be taken.
It was degrading to the country any longer to submit to such indignity. The time for sentimental sympathy with France was passed. By various acts of Congress, passed in 1798, provision was made for active resistance. The public vessels of the United States were directed to seize any armed vessels hovering on our coasts, or any which had committed depredations.
In June, 1798, an act was passed prohibiting our vessels from trading