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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.
jdjfair 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 Semillanre, 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-de-Paix, where the powder was delivered to General La
veauK. At that place this galliot was sold to an inhabitant of St. Domingo, who armed her, equipped her completely, partly at Port-de-Paix and partly at Cape Franqois. She was called La Ven-> geance, and given to Captain Berard, as commander, who sailed from St. Domingo with a commission in good form, and a crew entirely French, to cruise against the enemies of the Republic. A few days after her departure, she captured a Spanish vessel, called the Princesse cies /Isliiries, laden with a rich cargo, and carried her into the port of New York, in the summer of 1795.
The Spanish consul availing himself of the facility given him by the law of 5th June 1794, had the prize .arrested, under the pretext that the privateer had been armed in the United States, and we saw officers of the government appear to defend his assertion—Mr. Harrison, attorney of the district of New York, and Mr. Troup, clerk of the district and circuit courts, to which appertained the decision of the cause.
It was under these auspices that the prize was arrested, and that the captain of the privateer saw himself obliged to defend her against the allegation of a pretended armament. But it was not sufficient to have arrested the prize, they must also attack the privateer: this did not fail to happen. Shortly after Mr. Harrison, without laying aside his office of attorney for the captured, but acting in this instance in the name of the United States, informed against La Vengeance, and required her arrest, under the same pretext which had been used for arresting her prize. This information was not founded upon any affidavit or material proof: but Mr. Attorney, according to his letter to the secretary of state, had no need of any; he had seen in the hands of the Spanish consul, documents sufficient to have the prize condemned. In fine. not content with these measures, sures, the same attorney, some time after, the two other causes being still pending, exhibited a second information against the privateer, and had her arrested anew, for having exported arms in violation of a law of the United States, which was in force when the Vengeance sailed from New York. This information was made upon the simple declaration of Mr. Giles, marshal of the court, who, as informer, was to have his part of the confiscation: so that all the officers of the district court (except the judge) were interested in the condemnation of the privateer or her prize. It is well to observe that, during the course of the process, the monies arising from the sale of the prize were deposited in the hands of the clerk (attorney for the Spaniards) those arising from the sale of the privateer in the hands of the marshal, (informer and interested in the confiscation)—so that their interest was to spin out these causes by means of appeal; and so it has happened.
As this last information is here principally in question, it is proper to enter into some details on the subject. It appeared in the allegation, that the privateer had exported from the United States two cannon, twenty muskets, and fifty barrels of powder.
Two cannon and twenty muskets could scarcely be an object of commercial speculation. The existence of the cannon lias never been proved, and certainly whatever muskets were found on board, were only for the defence of the vessel, without a wish to infringe the laws of the American government. The powder, in truth, was of the greatest consequence, but the consul of New York hastened to give his declaration under oath, and to prove by witnesses, that this powder had been taken from on board La Semillante, and made part of her
equipment. equipment. Mr. Harrison did not yield to this evidence.
However, the three causes went on; but the yellow fever, which took. place at New York, spun them out to considerable length. The judgment of the district court was not given till November. In the mean time, an express, which Capt. Berard had sent to St. Domingo, on the first arrest of his prize, had returned with papers proving, in the most convincing manner, that the Vengeur had arrived at Port-de-Paix without any armament or equipment whatever; and that she had been sold, armed and equipped wholly, and commissioned as a privateer, on the territory of the Republic. These documents were certificates of the general, the ordonnateur, &c. of the greater part of the principal officers of St. Domingo; the accounts of armament attested by all the providers, [fournisseurs] &c. the whole executed in the most authentic form.
The undersigned hastened to communicate these documents to the secretary of state of the United States, and to request that he would order the attorney of New York district, to stay the proceedings he had instituted in the name of the government. There was nothing done with them, and Mr. Harrison continued his prosecutions.
In fine, the moment came for deciding these three causes. They were pleaded with much preparation before the district court of New York: the privateer was acquitted of the charge of illegally arming, and the prize adjudged to the captor. Mr. Harrison did not appeal as to the privateer, but the cause of the prize was carried to the circuit court, and finally to the supreme court; and these two tribunals confirmed the sentence of the district court.
As to the exportation, the judge was of opinion that the vessel should be condemned for it; and
grounded, grounded his sentence only on the article of twenty muskets. Some of the attorneys for the privateer had considered it as of so little consequence, that ^hey had not conceived it would be brought in question; and had omitted to speak of it in their pleadings. It was natural to appeal from such a sentence; the consul of New York was the appellant, and required, agreeably to a law of Congress, that the vessel should be given up to him, under security during the appeal; but he could not obtain it; the vessel was sold for less than a tenth part of the cost of her armament: and the money was deposited till the conclusion of the process.
The circuit court, as was expected, set a«ide the sentence which condemned the privateer; but Mr. Harrison, not content with all he had hitherto done, immediately appealed to the supreme court of the United States, which was not more favourable to him, and confirmed the sentence of the circuit court. The government, notwithstanding the representations of the undersigned minister plenipotentiary, took a decided part in the appeal, and gave it in charge to Mr. Lee, the attorney-general, to argue—which he did with much eloquence, but with the success such a cause merited.
Affair of the Cassius.
In the month of Thermidor, of the 3d year, (August, 1795) the corvette Le Cassius, belonging to the Republic, commanded by Captain Davis, and sent by General Laveaux to the undersigned minister plenipotentiary, on a particular mission, requiring her immediate return to St. Domingo, was seized in virtue of an order from the district court of the United States, for the state of Pennsylvania, and her captain was arrested at the suit of
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