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will be duly appreciated by His Catholick Majesty, who, always anxious to preserve the best harmony with The United States, cannot fail to see, with deep concern, whatever may tend to interrupt the friendship which he desires to maintain with this Republick.
In your said Note of the 11th of last month, you do me the honour to request I would make known to my Government, the President's reliance upon their justice and regard for the amicable relations subsisting between The United States and Spain, to issue the most positive Orders to all the Officers of Spain, Naval and Military, not only to abstain from all unlawful aggressions upon the Commerce of The United States, but also for the suppression of all acts of hostility and depredation, under the pretext of authority, and of Commissions from Spain: you add that the robbery of the Coquette is only one of a great multitude of instances, in which the lawful commerce of The United States has been, and still continues to be, subject to outrages and depredations from armed Vessels, issuing from the Ports of Porto Rico and of Cuba, many of whom are recognized by the Authorities of The Havannah, as Pirates, against which they have taken measures, in concurrence with the Naval Force of The United States ;-that the Autho rities of the Spanish Government, in America, will perceive the necessity of withholding all protection from Persons who would misuse their Commissions and Banners for criminal practices, which you support by instances that have happened, of Vessels of The United States that have been carried into Porto Rico and Puerto Cabello, upon the pretence of a Blockade of the Coasts of Venezuela, instituted by the Spanish Authorities, who could neither have the right to proclaim, nor the power to enforce, such Blockade ;-in short, that The United States cannot recognize such Blockade as lawful, and that, in instructing their Naval Officers to protect Merchant Vessels of The United States, lawfully engaged in that Commerce, they will be cautioned to respect the just and lawful Rights of Spain, and to promote, by all the means in their power, the friendly relations subsisting between the two Countries.
That part of your Note requires elucidation, and I believe it my duty, therefore, to acquaint you, with the principles which serve as a basis for the conduct of my Government, in prosecuting the War against their revolted Provinces, with the rights which they acknowledge Neutral Powers have in that painful conflict; and, in short, with the just complaints it has against the conduct observed, since the commencement thereof, by the Government and People of The United States.
In making this exposition to you, Sir, it is my desire to convince the American Cabinet of the rectitude of His Catholick Majesty's intentions, and of the liberality of his policy, supported by the most incontestible and approved precepts of Publick Law. Flattering myself that, both the one and the other being acknowledged, the Government
will be gratified in doing them justice, by taking the most vigorous measures, to suppress at once the acts of hostility committed by Citizens of The United States upon Spain, and to cause them to observe that Neutrality, to which, with such solemnity and frequency, it has pledged itself, in the present dissensions between Spanish America and the Mother Country.
I do not believe that it is your intention, Sir, to place the Pirates which infest the Coasts of the Island of Cuba, on the same footing with the Privateers, duly authorised by my Government to carry on the War against the Insurgents, and thus to deprive it of one of the means of operating against them, and of opposing its just rights to subdue them. With regard to the former, I can assure you, that no Power desires their extermination more strenuously than Spain. Even leaving apart all sentiments of morality and humanity, it is evident that no one has a deeper concern in their destruction than she has, for if this is not attained, the commerce of one of her most valuable Provinces will soon be completely annihilated. You are pleased to acknowledge, Sir, in your Note, the efforts which the Authorities in The Havannah are making, in concurrence with the Navy of The United States, to obtain that object, and you may rest assured that His Catholick Majesty, as well on his part, as in conjunction with the Maritime Powers, will omit no effort whatever to exterminate those Ruffians, enemies to the human race. But the exertions of Spain and other Powers will be all in vain, whilst the evil is not cut to the root, which can be done only by The United States. It is from the Ports of this Union that those swarms of Wretches issue forth; it is in these Ports where the Crews of the Cruisers of the Spanish Insurgent Provinces are enlisted, with the most scandalous publicity; it is in these Ports where the unwary Mariners of Spanish Merchant Vessels are deceived and enticed into that Service; it is in these Ports where Expeditions are equipped, armed bodies are formed, and enterprises undertaken, to attack the Spanish Dominions. In short, when those infamous Adventurers are disappointed in obtaining the imaginary booty and wealth held out to them; when the prostration of the Spanish Commerce offers no further inducement to their execrable avarice; then those Privateers are converted into Pirates, and involve in their sanguinary horrors all those unfortunate Persons whom they meet on the Ocean, regardless of the Flag which should protect them. The truth of these facts does not require proof; but if this were requisite, I might fill some pages by the recital of them. I believe it necessary, however, to refer to the scandalous Expedition fitted out against Porto Rico; the departure of Daniels from these Ports, a few months since, with 500 American Sailors, to make War upon Spain; and to the numerous other instances which we daily see in the Publick Journals.
I shall abstain from all reflections at present, as to whether, by the
toleration of such serious proceedings, this Government evinces its friendship for Spain and a religious observance of the Neutrality it has proclaimed. But I will call your attention, Sir, to the imperious necessity of taking such measures as may terminate this system of Piracy, and, what is still more essential, to restrain, by severe penalties, the inconceivable number of Americans, who not only speculate on the lives and property of Subjects of Powers friendly to The United States, but on their own Fellow-Citizens. Although I am persuaded that the prudence of the President and Congress, in their wisdom, will adopt the most adequate measures for the attainment of that object, I take the liberty to suggest to you, whether it would not be expedient entirely to prohibit the admission into the Ports of The United States, of all Privateers belonging to Spain and to the Insurgent Provinces; and particularly to enact Laws that may put an end to the hostilities which are daily committed on Spain from this Country, and which ultimately result in depredations on American Commerce and the assassination of its defenceless Mariners.
In replying to the paragraph of your Note relative to Spanish Privateers and the supposed Blockade of Terra Firma, I deem it essential to state the principles which should be considered in the Civil War that unfortunately subsists between the Spanish Provinces in Europe and America. In vain will it be attempted to assimilate it with a War between two Independent Powers; the one having for object the subjection of revolted Subjects, and the other to defend injured rights, or obtain satisfaction for insults received. In the former, the Government to be obeyed may use all the means allowed by the Law of Nations, and those besides prescribed by its own local Laws: in the latter, such a Government can only avail itself of the efforts permitted by the publick Law acknowledged by all Nations. In the first case, if the Government that proposes to subdue the Insurgents, strictly adheres to the above principles, Neutral Powers have no right to complain, during the continuance of the Contest, of the enforcement of Laws that have been acknowledged, and against which no remonstrance had been made, whilst the Monarchy was united and tranquil; for it would be absurd to imagine or suppose, and much more so to require, that privileges should be granted to Rebels which had been denied to faithful Citizens. So long, therefore, as Spain does not recognize the self-styled Governments of Spanish America; so long as she uses her endeavours to bring them back to their duty; so long as Spanish treasures and blood are expended and shed in this painful conflict; it is evident that nobody can dispute, not only the right but the obligation she is under, to employ all the means allowed by her Laws, and previously respected by other Nations, for the attainment of that object. What did those Laws prescribe before the Insurrection? The entire prohibition of all Foreign Commerce in the Spanish Provinces of America.
Since the discovery of this Hemisphere by Spain, those Laws have been observed, and no pretension or complaint has been urged against them by any Power; and will it now be required of Spain, to grant or suffer a free Commerce that was never permitted, so that the Insurgents may thereby have the greater and perhaps the only means, of aggression, and of withdrawing themselves from her Dominion? I repeat, Sir, that whilst Spain does not renounce her American Provinces, she considers them as an integral part of the Monarchy, and has the right to maintain in them her municipal and mercantile Laws. On this undeniable principle, she can prohibit and interdict by force all Foreign Commerce, as she has done for ages, and consequently such Commerce between the Spanish American Provinces and a Foreign Nation is illegal. Those Persons, therefore, who should attempt to carry it on, must look for sequestration and other penalties, prescribed by the ancient Laws that have been acknowledged and respected for Centuries. I believe I have proved the right of Spain to prohibit that Commerce, and that consequently the remonstrances against the supposed Blockade of Terra Firma are totally inapplicable. Spain will never acknowledge the principle, that in a War between two Independent Nations, either should have the right to declare a Coast or Port in a state of Blockade, without a competent power to enforce it, for she knows too well the interest all Maritime Nations have in repelling that principle; and, therefore, what the Spanish Authorities of America denominate Blockade, should not be considered as such, but merely Orders to enforce the prohibitory Laws which have existed in Spain since the discovery of America. In like manner it would be absurd to say that the Coasts of The United States or the British Colonies were blockaded, because the respective Governments had directed, that commerce should be only carried on at certain Ports, and had prohibited the importation of certain merchandize on board of Foreign Vessels. Under this view, the service which the Spanish Privateers are no performing, is the same as that which has always been performed by the Vessels called Guarda-Costas, and by the Revenue Vessels of The United States, and of Great Britain and other Nations, tha is to say, to prevent a trade prohibited by their Laws. But if Spain has an interest in seeing this accomplished, it concerns her as much that her Vessels should respect the lawful commerce of other Nations, and abstain from all acts of hostility and aggression upon their Merchant Vessels; and to this end, her Laws contain severe penalties against those who should be guilty of such excesses, and direct that the Owners of Privateers shall enter into heavy Bonds to indemnify the damages and injuries they may occasion, independently of corporal punishment. I assure you, therefore, that the moment my Government is informed of any aggression or act of hostility, committed by its Subjects against the lawful commerce of this Republick, it will not only completely in
demnify the Sufferers, but will make a severe example of the Offenders, that will soon put an end to such acts. This is what His Catholick Majesty can do, and will perform with pleasure, and this is all that can be required of him; for I do not believe it is the intention of the President to claim from my Government, that, whilst the Ocean swarms with Privateers from the Insurgent Provinces, they should restrain its Subjects from employing Vessels that are necessary to defend their lives and property, and which are also intended to operate against the Enemies of the State.
As the complaints contained in your said Note are founded on the alleged violated rights of Neutrality of the American Republick, you will permit me to make some remarks on what I think that Neutrality should consist of, and on the manner in which it is observed.
A State that wishes to remain neutral, on the breaking out of a War between two Powers, should observe towards either Party the same relations of friendship and commerce that subsisted previous to the rupture. Such conduct only can establish a Neutrality. For if, after the commencement of hostilities, such State should afford assistance to one of the Belligerents not granted before, or should withhold that assistance it was in the habit of giving, its Neutrality no longer exists, for it augments the power of one of the Belligerents to the injury of the other. Hence it follows, that if a Neutral Power had no commerce with one of the Belligerent Parties before the breaking out of the War, it violates its Neutrality, if, by allowing afterwards such a Commerce it affords the means of offence and defence which that Party required. Let it not be said that Neutrality consists only in observing the same conduct towards either Belligerent Power, for it is evident that if assistance is lent to one of the Parties either in Arms or Money, which is abundantly supplied with those means, no service is rendered, but if that aid is afforded to the adverse Party which could not defend itself without such assistance, it becomes an effective act of hostility against the former.
I believe you cannot but assent to this principle, and if correct, as it certainly is, it will be easy to draw the inference, whether the Government of The United States and its Citizens have observed, and do observe, an impartial Neutrality between Spain and the Spanish Provinces in this Hemisphere, and this too, even if they had been considered as Independent Powers; and, therefore, under the circumstances in which they are situated, the conduct of this Republick is rendered still more extraordinary. I shall not fatigue you, Sir, by enumerating the acts of hostility committed upon Spain in favour of her revolted Subjects, by Citizens of The United States: the Notes of my Predecessors, and my own, on this disagreeable subject, contain the relation and proofs of many, but not of all of them. I shall only recall your attention, therefore, to this matter, not doubting that the Presi