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Instructions des Ministres d'Amérique, en Date du 15 Juillet, 1797. L'Etat de Neutralité des Etats-Unis ayant été la Cause et le Prétexte des Offenses et des Vexations, dont le Gouvernement Fédéral se plaint d'avoir été accablé par la France, les Ministres Américains sont chargés de demander le Redressement de ces Griefs, surtout par Rapport aux Déprédations et autres Torts, auxquels a été exposé le Commerce Américain de la Part de la France. Notice des principaux Points, qui ont besoin d'étre changés ou revus dans le Traité de Commerce, et dans les autres Traités faits avec la France; l' Attention des Ministres est dirigée principalement sur la Garantie réciproque donnée dans le Traité d'Alliance et à laquelle le Gouvernement Fédéral voudrait qu'on renonçât entièrement de Purt et d'autre, si non, que l'on en modifiât les Stipulations d'une Manière plus précise.-Révision des Articles du Traité de Commerce, auxquels il serait bon de fuire des Changemens ;-Conduite que les Ministres Plénipotentiaires auront à tenir relativement au Renouvellement de la Convention consulaire Sur l'Intervalle qui doit se trouver dans la Sortie des Ports d'Amérique des l'aisseaux de Guerre des différentes Nations belligéran tes-Sur la Ligne juridictionnelle dans les Eaux de l'Amérique Principes généraux que les Ministres auront à suivre dans la Négociation.-Il leur est recommandé surtout, d'être fermes et modérés dans leur Langoge, pour obtenir le principal But du Gouvernement Fédéral, la Conservation de la Paix avec la France.
Instructions to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry, Esquires, Envoys Extraordinary and Ministers Plenipotentiary, from the United States of America to the French Republic.
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 since their arms were united in the war with Great Britain, which ended in the full and formal 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 basis 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 affection 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 wish 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 neutrality became indispensably binding. Hence the gernment 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 declarations, 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 recognized by the national legislature, and observance of them enforced by specific penalties, in the act of congress passed the fifth 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 secure against formal official censure : but the United States have not been so fortunate. The acts of their government, in its various branches, though pure in their principle and impartial in operation, and
conformable to their indispensible rights of sovereignty, 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 violences against the persons of our citizens, are evidences of the latter. These injuries and depredations 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 on an equitable mode of examining 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 proposed mode of adjusting those claims, by commissioners appointed on each side, is so perfectly fair, we cannot imagine that it will be refused. But when the claims are adjusted, if payment in specie cannot be obtained, it may be found necessary 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 shall render practicable. These periods you will endeavour as far as possible to shorten.
Not only the recent depredations, under colour of the decrees of the Directory of the second of July 1796 and the second of March 1797, or under the decrees of their agents, or the illegal sentences 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 mentioned claims, might be the effect of the decree of the Executive Directory of the second of March last, reviving the decree of the 9th of May 1793 but this being an ex post 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 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 trafic 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 us justice and the more, because it has not, at any period of the war, expressed its desire that the commercial treaty should in these respects be altered.
Besides the claims of our citizens for depredations on their property, there are many arising from express 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 the 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 best possible means of compensation must be attempted. These will depend on what you shall discover to be practicable 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 stipulation; and an option reserved to them, jointly or individually, either to accept the means of payment which you shall stipulate, or to re
sort 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 pressed with the greatest earnestness, yet it is not to be insisted on as an indispensible condition of the proposed treaty. You are not, however, to renounce these claims of our citizens, nor to stipulate 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 alteration, the President has no difficulty in substituting the principles of the law of nations, as stated in the 17th and 18th articles of our commercial treaty with Great-Britain, to those of the 23d and 24th articles of our commercial treaty with France : 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 subjects the property of the neutral nation found on board enemies ships' to capture and condemnation, must 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;