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lordships to the situation of certain prize causes, arising out of some of these captures, now depending in the tribunals of this country.
The undersigned are happy in baving it in their power to state that, according to the information they have been able to obtain, such of these claims as relate to captures, which, from causes peculiar to themselves, have excited in America a more than ordinary degree of sensibility, are not so considerable in number as was at first supposed.
The complaints of this description, to which the undersigned would particularly invite the attention of their lordships, have been produced by seizures as prize, made in direct violation of rules of maritime practice, previously declared by his majesty's government to the government of the United States, and in no degree revoked or affecied by any arrangement between them, or even by any notification, that they were about to be abandoned.
Of these seizures, the most important, and in every view the most interesting, were made in the year 1805, and in the carly part of the year 1806, of the ships and merchandise of Ainerican citizens, upon the pretension, that the voyages in which they were engaged were direct or continuous between the colonies of his majesty's enemies and some port in Europe.
Although it is certain that the government of the United States has never admitted that illegality can be imputed to such a trade, even when confessedly continuous or direct, and had concluded that the question had been otherwise formally settled in its favour, the undersigned believe it to be unnecessary to bring that point into view with any reference to the cases now under consideration. It is sufficient to state that, at the date of these seizures the merchants of the United States did explicitly understand, and were justified in a confident belief, founded not only upon antecedent practice, but upon a formal communication, in the year 1801, to the American minister in London from bis majesty's principal secretary of state for the department of foreign affairs, that the circumstances, by which these voyages were accompanied, had been, and were distinctly admitted by the British government, and by British courts of prize, to brcak their continuity, and render them unquestionably lawsul.
The following detail will show more precisely the nature and effect of the communication to which the undersigned allude.
The publick and private armed ships of this country having seized American vessels, bound from the United States to the Spanish West Indies, on the pretext that their cargoes consisted of articles of the growth of Spain, then at war with Great Britain, and the vice-admiralty court of Nassau having condemned the cargo of one of these vessels, upon that pretext, Mr. King, in a note to lord Hawkesbury of the 13th of March, 1801, remonstrated against these acts as palpable abuses. The subject of this remonstrance was immediately referred to the king's advocate, whose report of the 16th of March, 1801, after declaring that the sentence of the vice-admiralty court was erroneous, concludes with the following exposition of the law as understood in Great Britain, relative to the commerce of neutrals with belligerents and their colonies. " It is now distinctly understood, and has been repeatedly so decided by the high court of appeal, that the produce of the colonies of the enemy may be imported by a neutral into his own country, and may be re-exported from thence, even to the mother country of such colony; and in like manner the produce and manufactures of the mother country may, in this circuitous mode, legally find their way to the colonies. The direct trade, however, between the mother country and its colonies has not, I apprehend, been recognised as legal, either by his majesty's government, or by his tribunals."
. 6. What is a direct trade, or what amounts to an intermediate importation into the neutral country, may sometimes be a question of some difficulty. A general definition of either, applicable to all cases, cannot well be laid down. The question must depend upon the particular cire cumstances of each case. Perhaps the mere touching in the neutral country, to take fresh clearances, may properJy he considered as a fraudulent evasion, and is in effect the direct trade; but the high court of admiralty has expressly decided (and I see no reason to expect that the court of appeal will vary the rule) that landing the goods and paying the duties in the neutral country, breaks the continuity of the voyage, and is such an importation as legalizes the trade, although the goods be reshipped in the
same vessel, and on account of the same neutral proprie. tors, and be forwarded for sale to the mother country or the colony."
An extract from this report, containing the foregoing passage, was transmitted by the duke of Portland, in a letter of the 30th March, 1801, to the lords commissioners of the admiralty. His grace's letter concludes thus: “In order, therefore, to put a stop to the inconveniences arising from these erroneous sentences of the vice-admiralty courts, I have the honour to signify to your lordships the king's pleasure that a communication of the doctrine laid down in the said report should be immediately made by your lordship's to the several judges presiding in them, setting forth what is held to be the law upon the subject by the superior tribunals, for their future guidance and direction."
On the 11th of April, 1801, lord Hawkesbury communicated to Mr. King, for the information of the government of the United States, a copy of the above letter of the duke of Portland, which is stated by his lordship to have been written by his majesty's command, in consequence of Mr. King's representation of the preceding month, together with a copy of the extract from the report of the king's advocate, referred to in his grace's letter, and already above quoted. Upon the receipt of this communication, Mr. King transmitted it to his government in a letter (of which a copy is annexed) containing the following observations: “I take the liberty of suggesting the expediency of publishing these copies in our newspapers, as the most expeditious means of communicating the same to the cruising ships and privateers in the American seas. Having intimated this suggestion to lord Hawkesbury before he prepared and sent me his answer, there can be no exceptions here against such a publication.” The publication was directed, and took place accordingly.
The undersigned are persuaded that lord Holland and lord Auckland will at once perceive that the report of the king's advocate, thus unequivocally adopted by his majesty's government, and communicated, as an act to be respected and confided in, through the American minister, to the government of the United States, and finally to their citizens and to Europe, through the medium of a publication expected and authorized, cannot, in any fair construc
tion, be viewed as any thing short of a formal declaration, on the part of Great Britain, “ that the landing of the cargo and the payment of the duties in the neutral country," would be considered' as legalizing the circuitous trade, even between a belligerent and its own colonies.
The practice during the late, and the two first years of the present war, was in perfect conformity with this document, and by that conformity increased its authority, and furnished an additional justification, if any had been required, for a dependence upon the doctrine which it announced..
In the summer of 1805, however, when a large annount of American property was afloat, undeniably entitled to the protection of the above rule, and committed to the high seas under an implicit reliance upon a strict adherence to it, the rule was suddenly abandoned, and British cruisers fell upon this trade, thus sanctioned by the express admission, as well as by the acquiescence of their government; and these captures are understood to have received the highest judicial sanction.
The undersigned have no desire to dwell upon this subject. They are convinced that the liberal and equitable sentiments which distinguish his majesty's government, render unnecessary the farther explanations of which it is susceptible. Referring to two notes from the undersigned Mr. Monroe, to lord Mulgrave, of the 23d of September, 1805, and to Mr. Fox, of the 25th of February, 1806, the undersigned have only to declare their sincere conviction that his majesty's government will not fail to see, in the facts which they have had the honour to state, an irresistible call upon it to repair the injurious cffects of these seizures. As to the few cases of this class, now depending before the lords commissioners of appeal, or in other prize courts of his majesty, the undersigned feel assured ihat measures will be taken to cause them to be favourably disposed of, and that suitable reparation will moreover be secured to the parties injured for the loss and damage they have sustained. The undersigned have the honour to transmit herewith a list of all the cases of this class, in which are distinguished such as are still judicially depending.
The next class of these cases (of which lists and estimates will hercafter be furnished) comprehends captures,
during the existing war, contrary to the tenour of a letter of the 5th January, 1804, from sir Evan Nepean to Mr. Hammond, on the subject of the blockade of Martinique and Guadaloupe, of which a copy was enclosed in a letter of the 12th of April, 1804, from Mr. Merry to Mr. Madison, of both of which letters copies are herewith transmitted.
The citizens of the United States complain that they have suffered severely by captures, in violation of the rules laid down with so much fairness and precision in this communication, and that, where condemnations have not follow. ed, compensation equivalent to the actual loss has not been, and cannot be procured in the ordinary course, by any exertions on their part. The pretext for some of these captures has been the breach of an alleged blockade of Martinique or Guadaloupe; for others, the breach of an imaginary blockade of Curracoa ; and for others the breach of an equally imaginary blockade of other ports and places. In all of these cases, either the actual investment of the particular port was wanting, or the vessel, seized for an imputed criminal destination to it, had not been warned as required. The just extent of these claims the undersigned are not able to state ; but they presume that it cannot be considerable.
The only remaining claims, which are reducible to any precise class, are those which relate to captures within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Of these, as well as some others of a miscellaneous nature, which the undersigned have not at present the means of presenting distinctly to lord Holland and lord Auckland, lists shall hereafter be prepared, and laid before their lordships, accompanied by suitable explanations.
The undersigned request lord Holland and lord Auckland to accept the assurance of their perfect considera. tion.
JAMES MONROE, WM. PINKNEY.