Page images

A Statement of Facts relative to American Vessels, taken by

French Privateers, and condemned in Spanish Ports, obtained from the most authentick sources.

Of the French spoliations there have been fifty appeals from the consular judgments in Spain, to the council of prizes at Paris, of which thirty have been released, nine condemned, and twelve are yet depending. Not one sous has been paid in any case, nor is there a single case of such spoliations on the list of liquidations, now at the French treasury, which are to participate of the twenty millions of livres, to be paid by the United States to their citizens, under the treaty of 1803, on account of French spoliations.

The American minister never did demand payment of French spoliations made in Spain, knowing them as such, nor did the American agent ever demand it by his order or knowledge. The first intelligence which the American government had of appeals being permitted from the French consular tribunals in Spain, to the council of prizes in France, was received from Spain herself. As soon as it was received, the Secretary of State wrote to the American minister in Paris, to know what the fact was, and instructed him at the same time to prohibit the agent from acting in such cases; it having been at all times the opinion of the government, that Spain alone was answerable, of whom only has the recompense been demanded.

Taken by the Spaniards since the 1st of October, 1796, until the

104 vessels. Of the above vessels have been condemned, 29 Acquitted, ransomed, or compromised,

51 Disappeared, unaccounted for, depending, 24

Total, 104

Note. This statement was made from such documents as were at the time in the possession of our ministers at Madrid. There is reason to believe that it does not em YOL. IX.


brace all the cases which had then occurred, and it may be observed that others have occurred since the period at which it was made.




(Not published, as negotiations on the subject are still pending.]



[Not published, as negotiations on the subject are still pending.]

[ocr errors][merged small]



The committee to whom was referred so much of the President's message of the 4th day of November last, as relates to our foreign affairs, report, in part:

That in presenting to the House, at this time, a view of our relations with Great Britain, it is deemed unnecessary to recite the causes which produced the war. The wrongs which the United States had received from that for a long series of years, have already been laid before the


publick, and need not again be enumerated : they were too deeply felt to have been forgotten, although they may be forgiven by the American people. The United States having engaged in the war for the sole purpose of vindicating their rights and honour, that motive alone should animate them to its close. It becomes a free and virtuous people to give a useful example to the world. It is the duty of a representative government to render a faithful account of its conduct to its constituents. A just sensibility to great and unprovoked wrongs and indignities, will justify an appeal to arms : an honourable reparation should restore the blessings of peace : every step which they take should be guided by a sacred regard to principle.

To form a correct estimate of the duties which the United States have to perform, it is necessary to take a view of the communications which have passed between the Executive of the United States and the British government since the declaration of war. Such a view, the committee is persuaded, will show distinctly the existing ground of controversy between the two nations, and the indispensable obligation on the United States to maintain it.

Your committee has seen with much satisfaction, that at the moment of the declaration of war, the attention of the Executive was engaged in an effort to bring it to a speedy and honourable termination. As early as the twenty-sixth of June last, the charge des affaires of the United States at London, was instructed to propose to the British government an armistice, to take immediate effect, on conditions which it is believed the impartial world will consider safe, honourable, and advantageous to Great Britain. They were few in number and limited to positive wrongs daily practised. That the orders in council should be repealed, and that our flag should protect our seamen, were the only indispensable conditions insisted on. Other wrongs, however great, were postponed for amicable negotiation. As. an inducement to the British government to forbear these wrongs, it was proposed to repeal the non-importation law, and to prohibit the employment of British seamen, in the publick and private vessels of the United States : particu., lar care was taken, that these propositions should be made

in a form as conciliatory as they were amicable in substance.

Your committee cannot avoid expressing its astonishment at the manner in which they were received. It was not sufficient to reject the proposed armistice, terms of peculiar reproach and insult were adopted to make the rejection offensive.

It happened, that almost on the same day on which the United States, after having been worn out with accumu. lated wrongs, had resorted to the last and only remaining honourable alternative, in support of their rights, the British government had repealed conditionally its orders in council. That measure was unexpected, because every previous application for it had failed, although repeated to the very moment it was decided on. Conditional as the repeal was, it was admitted to have removed a great obstacle to accommodation. The other only remained, the practice of impressment. It was proposed to the British government to open an amicable negotiation to provide a substitute to it, which should be considered an ample equivalent. The substitute proposed was defined, and of a character so comprehensive as to have removed, as was presumed, every possible objection to an accommodation. The proposition before made to exclude British seamen from our service was enlarged, so as to comprehend all native British subjects not already naturalized or entitled to naturalization under the laws of the United States. This was likewise rejected.

Your committee have sought with anxiety some proof of a disposition in the British government to accommodate, on any fair condition, the important difference between the two nations, relative to impressment; but they have sought in vain : none is to be found either in the communications of the British minister to the American charge des affaires at London, or in those of the commander of the British naval forces at Halifax, made by order of his government to the department of state. They have seen with regret, that although lord Castlereagh professed a willingness in his government to receive and discuss amicably any proposition having in view, either to check abuse in the practice of impressment, or to provide a substitute to it, he not only declined

entering into a negotiation for the purpose, but discountenanced the expectation that any substitute could be proposed, which his government would accept. It merits notice also, though it ceased to be a cause of surprise, that in the communication of admiral Warren to the department of state, the subject of impressment was not even alluded to.

Had the Executive consented to an armistice on the repeal of the orders in council, without a satisfactory provision against impressment, or a clear and distinct understanding with the British government to that effect, in some mode entitled to confidence, your committee would not have hesitated to disapprove it.

The impressment of our seamen being deservedly considered a principal cause of the war, the war ought to be prosecuted until that cause was removed. To appeal to arms in defence of a right, and to lay them down without securing it, or a satisfactory evidence of a good disposition in the opposite party to secure it, would be considered in no other light than a relinquishment of it. To at: tempt to negotiate afterwards for the security of such right, in the expectation that any of the arguments which had been urged before the declaration of war and been rejected, would have more weight after that experiment had been made in vain, would be an act of folly which would not fail to expose us to the scorn and derision of the British nation and of the world.

On a full view, therefore, of the conduct of the Executive in its transactions with the British government, since the declaration of war, the committee consider it their duty to express their entire approbation of it. They perceive in it a firm resolution to support the rights and honour of their country, with a sincere and commendable disposition to promote peace on such just and reasonable conditions as the United States may, with safety, accept.

It remains, therefore, for the United States to take their final attitude with Great Britain, and to maintain it with consistency, and with unshaken firmness and constancy. The manner in which the friendly advances and liberal propositions of the Executive have been received by the British government, has in a great measure extinguished the hope of amicable accommodation. It is, however,

« PreviousContinue »