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is established between a legal and an illegal privateer; it was judged that they had a right to pronounce on this legality! and consequently on the validity of the prizes: it was finally decided, that a prize made at sea with the assistance of an illegal privateer, was void and should be restored.
It was according to these first decisions of the supreme court that the district attorney of Virginia wrote officially, on the 28th March, 1794, to the vice-consul at Norfolk—" No vessel can be con"demned as prize, but in district courts, which are "the proper admiralties of the United States." The enemies of France understood, or did not understand, this mode; but they availed themselves of it; and in order to cause French privateers to be arrested, they had recourse to the law of 5th June, 1794.
At this period, however, the law had put into the hands of government a sufficient power for preventing the arming and equipping of privateers in the ports of the United States. By the letter of the secretary of the treasury of the 4th August, 1 793, the collectors of the customs were authorized, and even required, to visit, in the strictest manner, not only all privateers, but all vessels entering or going out of American ports. The law of the 5th June authorized the president to support the exercise of these functions with military force. Of course, they did not neglect to visit, with" the greatest rigour, all French vessels, privateers, and others, during their continuance in the ports of the United States, and at their departure. They did not quit these ports, but under the eye, and with the express permission, of the officers of the government; for it had forbidden the collectors to clear them, if they committed the least violation on the neutrality ef the United States: in which case they might be seized and confiscated. Yet, whether rher they had entered the ports of the United States armed, and also went out armed; or had since been armed for war in French ports, scarcely did one of their prizes enter, but she was arrested by order of the federal court.
The proceedings were instituted and pursued, without any of the forms for protecting citizens. As the undersigned minister plenipotentiary has said, the assertion of an enemy of the Republic was sufficient for causing a prize to be seized; often the privateer which had brought her in, and sometimes, for the arrest of her captain, no proof was required from the enemy consul who instigated the arrest; he was not obliged to give security for the damages which mi^ht result from the procedure, if it were unfounded; the captain was not allowed to remain in possession of his property, on giving security for its value; the prizes were not valued; they simply placed them in the hands of the officers of justice; rarely were they permitted to be sold; and then the sale was made with, slowness, and not till the consent of the two parties was obtained. In fine, when with much delay and expense, notwithstanding the shifts of a crafty chicanery, the complainants proved nothing they advanced, the prizes were adjudged to the captors, but refused indemnification for damages and losses occasioned by this seizure.
The undersigned minister plenipotentiary knows but two affairs, that of La Nostra Senora del Carvien, at Rhode Island; and that of La Princesse des Asturies, at New York, where security was given to the party complaining, and where damages and interests were allowed to the captors— yet the tribunals have always allowed damages to the captured, when they have declared the prizes illegal. The least pretext was sufficient to obtain from a tribunal the arrest of a prize; it was suffi
and could not make any lawful prize. This ridiculous assertion was seriously opposed in the district and circuit courts, and in the supreme court of the United States; at the close of the proceedings which lasted nearly two years, the prizes were adjudged to the captors, but without allowing them damages.
In like manner have been treated the rich and numerous prizes of the French privateers La Mere Michelle, Le Brutus, Le General Laveaux, and Le Vengeur. The captors have gained their causes in three courts, and have not obtained damages.
Were it necessary to cite here all the vexatious proceedings commenced against French vessels, the undersigned minister plenipotentiary would be obliged to write a volume. He contents himself with adding to what he has just said, the affair of the Vengeance and that of the Cassius.
jAjfair of the Vengeance.
At the beginning of 1794, the predecessor of the undersigned charged the captain of La Dorade, a French galliot, with a particular mission for St. Domingo. He ordered him to go to New York with his galliot, to take some powder which was at Sandy Hook on board the frigate La Semillante, belonging to the Republic, and which made part of her equipment, and to carry them to General Laveaux. This vessel had formerly been armed for war; she had been built with port-holes; consequently she attracted the particular attention of the government. Many difficulties were thrown in her way; but finally, after having submitted to all the requisite inspections, she sailed with a formal clearance from the collector of the customs of Philadelphia. She went to New York, where the captain acquitted himself of his mission, and thence to Port-dc-Ps-ix, where the powder was delivered to General La
cient to allege, that the privateer had taken one or two cannon, one or two barrels of powder, or opened some port-holes in the territory of the United States.
In the affair of the two prizes of the French privateer Les Citoyens de Marseille, which entered the port of Philadelphia, armed and commissioned, repaired in the same port, and sent out under the eyes of the government, the only tiling in question was, that some port-holes were pretended to have been opened in the vessel after her departure from Philadelphia; the court of Charleston was of opinion, that the holes had been opened, and condemned the two prizes. The superior courts did not adopt this opinion, and the first sentence was reversed; but after how a long time, how much care, fatigue, pain and expense?
In the affair of the Princesse des Asturies, at New York, as will be seen hereafter, only two cannon and a score of fusees were in question; behold what is called an armament! behold how words are abused!
Prizes have been arrested under still more frivolous pretexts. The privateer La Parisienne had infringed a revenue law of the United States; she was seized and condemned by the district court. This tribunal, doubtless agreeably to rules prescribed by the law, had restored this vessel to her owners, on making them pay her value. The privateer, after having executed the sentence of the court, went out and made two considerable prizes: one was sent into Charleston and the other into Savannah. They were both arrested at the instance of the English consuls, under the pretext that the tribunal had aiStcd illegally, by restoring the confiscated privateer—that notwithstanding this restitution and the payment of her value to the treasurer, she had always remained the property of the United States,