Page images

tain, is of itself a sufficient demonstration of the amicable spirit which has directed their publick councils. This spirit is sufficiently manifested also by the propositions which have been lately made through you, and by the patience and cordiality with which you have conducted the negotiation. I might add, as a further proof to the same effect, that, notwithstanding the refusal of which we have oficial information, from Glasgow and' Liverpool particularly, to restore American seamen deserting their ships in British ports, the laws of many of the states have been left, without interruption, to restore British deserters. One of the states, Virginia, has, even at the last session of its legislature, passed an act for the express purpose of restoring such deserters, which deserves the more attention as it was done in the midst of irritations resulting from the multiplied irregularities committed by British ships in the American seas.

“ Mr. Merry has expressed some inquietude with respect to the clause in the act above referred to, which animadverts on British trespasses on board American vessels ; and his language on several late occasions has strongly opposed the expectation, that Great Britain will ever relinquish her practice of taking her own subjects out of neutral vessels. I did not conceal from him my opinion that the terms “ trespass, &c.” would be applicable to the impressment of British subjects as well as others, or that the United States would never accede to that practice. I oba served to him, that every preceding administration had maintained the same doctrine with the present on that point, and that such were the ideas and feelings of the nation on it, that no administration would dare so far to surrender the rights of the American flag. He expressed dissatisfaction also at the section, which requires certain compliances on the part of British ships of war entering our harbours with arrangements to be prescribed by the collectors. He did not deny the right of the nation to make what rules it. might please in such cases, but apprehended that some of them were such as the commanders might deem incompati. ble with their just pretensions, especially when subjecting them to the discretion of so subaltern an authority as that of the collectors, and consequently that the law would have the unfriendly effect of excluding British ships of war altogether from American ports. He was reminded in reply,

that the collectors were, according to the terms of the section, to be guided in the exercise of their power by the directions of the President; and it was not only to be presumed, but he might be particularly assured, that the directions given would be consistent with the usages due to publick ships, and with the respect entertained for nations in amity with the United States. He asked whether, in transmitting the act to his government, as his duty would require, he might add the explanation and assurances he had heard from me. I answered, that, without having received any particular authority for that purpose from the President, I could safely undertake that what I had stated was conformable to his sentiments.

“Enclosed is another act of Congress, restraining and regulating the arming of private vessels by American citizens. This act was occasioned by the abuse made of such armaments in forcing a trade, even in contraband of war, with the island of St. Domingo, and by the representations made on the subject of that trade by the French charge des affaires and minister here, and by the British minister, with respect to abuses which had resulted or might result from such armaments, in cases injurious to Great Britain. A report of these representations, as made to the President, is herewith enclosed. The act, in substituting a security against the unlawful use of the armaments in place of an absolute prohibition of them, is not only consistent with the obligations of a neutral nation, but conformable to the laws* and ordinances of Great Britain and France themselves, and is consequently free from objections hy either. The interposition of the government, though claimed in behalf both of Great Britain and of France, was most pressed in behalf of the latter. Yet the measure, particularly as it relates to the shipment of contraband articles for the West Indies, is likely to operate much more conveniently for Great Britain than for France, who cannot, like Great Britain, otherwise ensure a supply of these articles for the defence of their colonies.

“In the project which you have offered to the British government, I observe you have subjoined a clause for

* See act of parliament 35 G. 3, c. 92, s. 37—, and Valin's Commec. taries Liv. 1, Tit. 10, art. 1.

securing respect to certificates of citizenship. The effect of this clause, taken as it ought to be, and as was doubt. less intended, in context with the preceding clause, is limited to the case provided for in that clause. Still it may be well, in order to guard against the possibility of its being turned into a pretext for requiring such certificates in other cases, that a proviso for the purpose be added, or that words of equivalent restriction be inserted.

66 Another subject requiring your attention is pointed at by the resolutions of the Senate, moved by general Smith, on the subject of a British tax on exports, under the name of a convoy duty. A copy of the resolution is enclosed. A duty under that name was first laid in the year 1798. It then amounted to half of one per cent. on exports to Europe, and one per cent. on exports to other places, and consequently to the United States. The discrimination, being evidently contrary to the treaty then in force, became a subject of discussion between Mr. King and the British ministry. His letters to the Secretary of State, and to lord Grenville, explain the objections urged by him, and the pretexts in support of the measure alleged by them. The subject was resumed in my letter of 5th March, 1804, to Mr. King, with a copy of which you have been already furnished. It was received by Mr. Gore, during the absence of Mr, King on the continent; and if any occasion was found proper by either for repeating the remonstrance against the duty, it appears to have been without effect. Whilst the treaty was in force, the discrimination was unquestionably a violation of its faith. When the war ceased, it lost the pretext that it was the price of the convoy, which, giving a longer protection to the American than to the European trade, justified a higher price for the former than for the latter. Even during war, the esports are generally made as American property, and in American vessels, and therefore, with a few exceptions only, a convoy which would subject them to condemnation, from which they would otherwise be free, would be not a benefit, but an injury. Since the expiration of the treaty, the discrimination, as well as the duty itself, can be combated by no other arguments than those, which, in the document referred to, are drawn from justice, friendship, and sound policy; including the tendency of the measure to produce a discontinuance of the liberal, but


unavailing example given to Great Britain, by the regulations of commerce on our side, and a recurrence to such counteracting measures as are probably contemplated by the mover of the resolutions of the Senate. All these arguments gain strength, in proportion to the augmentations which the evil has latterly received; it being now stated that the duty amounts to four per cent. on the exports to the United States. These, according to Coxe's answer to Sheffield, amounted, in the year 1801, to about seven and a half millions ster). and therefore levy a tax on the United States of about $1,300,000. From this is indeed to be deducted a sum proportioned to the amount of re-exportations from the United States. But, on the other hand, is to be added the increase of the exports since the year 1801, which probably exceed the reexportations.

** With the aid of these communications and remarks, you will be at no loss for the views of the subject most proper to be presented to the British government, in order to promote the object of the resolutions; and the resolutions themselves ought powerfully to second your efforts, if the British government feels the same desire, as actuates the United States, to confirm the friendship and confidence on both sides by a greater conformity on that side to the spirit of the commercial regulations on this. .

"I have referred above to the enclosed copy of the motion made by Mr. Crowninshield in the House of Representatives. The part of it which has relation to the trade with the West Indies was suggested, as appears in his introductory observations, by the late proclamations of the British West India governours, excluding from that trade vessels of the United States, and certain articles of our exportations, particularly fish, even in British vessels. These regulations are to be ascribed partly to the attachment of the present administration in Great Britain to the colonial and navigation system, partly to the interested representations of certain merchants and others residing in the British provinces on the continent. Without entering at large into the policy on which the colonial restrictions are founded, it may be observed that no crisis could be more ineligible for enforcing them, than the present, because at none more than the present have the West

[ocr errors]

Indies been absolutely dependent on the United States for the supplies essential to their existence. It is evident in fact, that the United States, by asserting the principle of à reasonable reciprocity, such as is admitted in the trade with the European ports of Great Britain, and as is admitted even in the colonial trade of other European nations, so far at least as respects the vessels employed in the trade, might reduce the British government at once to the dilemma of relaxing her regulations or of sacrificing her colonies; and with respect to the interdict of supplies from the United States of articles necessary to the subsistence and prosperity of the West Indies, in order to force the growth and prosperity of the continental provinces of Nova Scotia, &c. what can be more unjust than thus to impoverish one part of the foreign dominions, which is considered as a source of wealth and power to the parent country, not with a view to favour the parent country, but to favour another part of its foreign dominions which is rather expensive than profitable to it? What can be more preposterous than thus, at the expense of islands which not only contribute to the revenue, commerce and navigation of the parent state, but can be secured in their dependence by that naval ascendency which they aid, to foster unproductive establishments ?

* Considerations, such as these, ought to have weight with the British government, and may very properly enter into frank conversations with its ministry on favourable occasions. However repugnant that government may be to a departure from its system, in the extent contemplated by Mr. Crowninshield's motion, it may at least be expected, that the trade, as opened in former wars, will not be refused under circumstances which, in the present, particularly demand it. It may be hoped that the way will be prepared for some permanent arrangement on this subject between the two nations, which will be conformable to equity, to reciprocity, and to their mutual advantage. “ I have the honour to be, &c.


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »