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lick ship receiving a person not duly qualified shall forfeit a thousand dollars, and the commander or owner of a private ship, knowing thereof, five hundred dollars, to be recovered in an action of debt, one half to the informer, and one half to the United States. It is also made penal, punishable as a felony, by imprisonment and labour from three to five years, or by fine from five hundred to one thousand dollars, for any person to forge or counterfeit, or to pass or use any forged or counterfeited certificate of citizenship, or to sell or dispose of one.
It may fairly be presumed, that if this law should be carried into effect, it would exclude all British seamen from our service.
By requiring five years continued residence in the United States, as the condition of citizenship, few if any British seamen would ever take advantage of it. Such as had left Great Britain, and had resided five years in this country, would be likely to abandon the sea for ever. making it the duty of the commanders of our publick, and of the collectors, in the case of private ships, to require an authenticated copy from the clerk of the court, before which a British subject, who offered his service, had been naturalized, as indispensable to his admission, and highly penal in either to take a person not duly qualified, and by allowing also British agents to object to any one offering his service, and to prosecute by suit the commander or collector, as the case might be, for receiving an improper person, it seems to be impossible that such should be received.
If the second alternative is adopted, that is, if all native British subjects are to be hereafter excluded from our service, it is important that the stipulation providing for it should operate so as not to affect those who have been already naturalized. By our law all the rights of natives are given to naturalized citizens. It is contended by some that these complete rights do not extend beyond the limits of the United States; that in naturalizing a foreigner, no state can absolve him from the obligation which he owes to his former government, and that he becomes a citizen in a qualified sense only. This doctrine, if true in any case, is less applicable to the United States than to any other
power. Expatriation seems to be a natural right, and by the original character of our institutions, founded by compact, on principle, and particularly by the unqualified investment of the adopted citizen with the full rights of the native, all that the United States could do, to place him on the same footing, has been done. In point of interest, the object is of little importance to either party. The number to be affected by the stipulation is inconsiderable ; nor can that be a cause of surprise, when the character of that class of men is considered. It rarely happens that a seaman who settles on a farm, or engages in a trade, and pursues it for any length of time, returns to sea.
His youthful days are exhausted in his first occupation. He leaves it with regret, and adopts another, either in consequence of marriage, of disease, or as an asylum for age.
To a stipulation which shall operate prospectively only, the same objection does not apply. In naturalizing foreigners, the United States may prescribe the limit to which their privileges shall extend. If it is made a condition that no native British subject, who may hereafter become a citizen, shall be employed in our publick or private ships, their exclusion will violate no right. Those who might become citizens afterwards would acquire the right subject to that condition, and would be bound by it. To such a stipulation the President is willing to assent, although he would much prefer the alternative of restraints on naturalization; and to prevent frauds, and to carry the same fully into effect, you aie authorized to apply all the restraints and checks, with the necessary modifications, to suit the case, that are provided in the act above recited, relative to seamen, for the purposes of that act.
In requiring that the stipulation to exclude British seamen from our service, with the regulations for carrying it into effect, be made reciprocal, the President desires that you make a provision, authorizing the United States, if they should be so disposed, to dispense with the obligations imposed by it on American citizens. The liberal spirit of our government and laws, is unfriendly to restraints on our citizens, such at least as are imposed on British subjects, from becoming members of other societies. This has been shown in the law of the last session relative to seamen, to
which your particular attention has been already drawn. This provision may likewise be reciprocated if desired.
The President is not particularly solicitous that either of these alternatives (making the proposed reservation in case the latter be,) should be preferred. To secure the United States against impressment he is willing to adopt either. He expects in return, that a clear and distinct provision shall be made against the practice. The precise form in which it may be done is not insisted on, provided the import is explicit. All that is required is, that in consideration of the act to be performed on the part of the United States, the British government shall stipulate in some adequate manner, to terminate or forbear the practice of impressment from American vessels.
It has been suggested as an expedient mode, for the adjustment of this controversy, that British cruisers should have a right to search our vessels for British seamen, but that the commanders thereof should be subjected to penalties, in case they made mistakes, and took from them American citizens. By this the British government would acquire the right of search for seamen, with that of impressing from our vessels the subjects of all other powers. It will not escape your attention, that by admitting the right, in any case, we give up the principle, and leave the door open to every kind of abuse. The same objection is applicable to any, and every other arrangement, which withholds the respect due to our flag by not allowing it to protect the crew, sailing under it.
If the first alternative should be adopted, it will follow, that none of the British seamen who may be in the United States at the tiine the treaty takes effect, and who shall not have become citizens, will be admitted into our service, until they acquire that right.
If the second is adopted, the number of native British seamen, who have been naturalized, and will be admissible into our service, will not, it is believed, exceed a few hundred; all others who may be in the United States at the time the treaty takes effect, or who may arrive afterwards, will be excluded.
As a necessary incident to an adjustment on the principle of either alternative, it is expected, that all Ame:
rican seamen who have been impressed, will be discharged, and that those who have been naturalized under the British laws, by compulsive service, will be permitted to withdraw.
I have to repeat, that the great object which you have to secure, in regard to impressment, is, that our fag shall protect the crew; and, providing for this in a satisfactory manner, that you are authorized to secure Great Britain effectually against the employment of her seamen in the service of the United States. This it is believed would be done by the adoption of either of the above alternatives, and the application to that which may be adopted, of the checks contained in the law of the last session, relative to scamen; in aid of which, it will always be in the power of Great Britain to make regulations operating in her own ports, with a view to the same effect. To terminate, however, this controversy, in a manner satisfactory to both parties, the President is willing, should other checks be suggested as likely to be more effectual, consistent with the spirit of our constitution, that you should adopt them. The strong feature of the first alternative, which authorizes the naturalization of seamen, requires their continued residence in the United States for five years, as indispensable to the attainment of that right. In case this alternative be adopted, the President is willing, for example, to secure a compliance with that condition, to make it the duty of each alien, who may be desirous to become a citizen, to appear in court every year, for the term of five years, until his right shall be completed. This example is given, not as a limitation, but as an illustration of your power, for to the exclusion of British seamen from our service no repugnance is felt. To such exclusion the amicable adjustment of this controversy with Great Britain affords a strong motive, but not the only one. It is a growing sentiment in the United States, that they ought to depend on their own population for the supply of their ships of war, and merchant service. Experience has shown that it is an abundant resource. In expressing this sentiment, you will do it in a manner to inspire, more fully, a confidence, that the arrangement which you may enter into, will be carried faithfully into effect, without derogating, however, from the conciliatory spirit of the accommodation.
A strong desire has heretofore been expressed by the British government, to obtain of the United States an arrangement to prevent the desertion of British seamen, when in our ports, and it cannot be doubted, that a stipulation to that effect would be highly satisfactory, as well as useful to Great Britain. It is fairly to be presumed, that it, alone, would afford to the British government a strong inducement to enter into a satisfactory arrangement of the difference relating to impressment. The claim is not inadmissible, especially as the United States have a reciprocal interest in the restoration of deserters from American vessels in British ports. You may therefore agree to an article, such as hath been lieretofore authorized by the United States, which shall make it the duty of each party to deliver them up.
Of the right of the United States to be exempted from the degrading practice of impressment, so much has been already said, and with such ability, that it would be useless, especially to you, who are otherwise so well acquainted with it, to dilate on its merits. I must observe, however, that the practice is utterly repugnant to the law of nations; that it is supported by no treaty with any nation; that it was never acquiesced in by any; and that a submission to it by the United States would be the abandonment, in favour of Great Britain, of all claim to neutral rights and of all other rights on the ocean.
This practice is not founded on any belligerent right. The greatest extent to which the belligerent claim has been carried, over the vessels of neutral nations, is, to board and take from them persons in the land and sea service of an enemy, contraband of war, and enemy's property. All nations agree respecting the two first articles, but there has been, and still exists, a diversity of opinion as to the last. On that and other questions of considerable importance, disputes have arisen which are yet unsettled. The empress Catharine, of Russia, a distinguished advocate of just principles, placed herself, in 1780, at the head of neutral nations, in favour of a liberal construction of their rights; and her successors have generally