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of legislation manifested their constant earnestness to fulfil their duties towards all the parties to that war, and they have repressed every intended violation of them which has come to their knowledge, and punished every transgression of them which has been brought before their courts and substantiated by testimony conformable to principles recognized by all tribunals of similar jurisdiction.
But I am instructed to request that you would furnish me with all the documents upon which the complaints in your notes of the 16th of July and 26th of August are founded; as well relating to the vessels mentioned in the former, as to the naval officers in the service of the United States, and to the judges whom in the latter you accuse of having in your belief disgraced the commissions which they bear. And I am further commanded to assure you that if these documents shall be found to contain evidence upon which any officer, civil or military of the United States, or any of their citizens, can be called to answer for his conduct as injurious to any subject of Portugal, every measure shall be taken to which the executive is competent, to secure full justice and satisfaction to your sovereign and his nation. pray you to accept, etc.
TO ALBERT GALLATIN
DEPARTMENT of State, WASHINGTON, October 4, 1820.
I have had the honor of receiving your dispatches Nos. 155, 156 and 157, with their enclosures. The preceding numbers subsequent to 151 have not yet come to hand. Your letter enclosing the two ordinances of the King of France, of 24
July, laying an additional tonnage duty of ninety francs per ton upon American vessels, and securing a bounty of ten francs for 100 kilogrammes upon cotton imported from any part of America out of the United States in French vessels, is, of course, among those not yet received, but the ordinances themselves have appeared in our public journals.
The effect of the French indirect tonnage duties upon articles of our produce, carried to France in our own vessels, before the act of Congress of 15 May last, was a gradual total exclusion of our vessels laden with any of those productions. This exclusion was taking place so rapidly that from the experience of its operation as now ascertained, as well as from the apparent deduction which must necessarily follow from the excessive burden of the discriminating duties upon our shipping, there is no doubt it would have been before the lapse of another year complete. It was taking place in a manner the most injurious to us both nationally and individually considered - disguised under the form of a duty of trifling amount upon the articles of merchandise and not upon the tonnage, the operation of the duty became sensible only by the ruin that it brought upon those of our merchants who adventured in the trade. It had been thus circulating like a poison in the veins of our commerce with France many months before it was discovered; and when detected in the heavy losses incurred by individuals, still remained but partially known, until the disastrous issue of every voyage to France exhibited its course so generally that at the last session of Congress, besides the information received from you, memorials from the chambers of commerce of New York and Philadelphia stated to that body the injuries which had already been sustained by these enormous charges of France, pointed out the consequences which must follow, unless some counteracting measure should be taken, and
called for some act of the legislature for the protection of their interests and those of the country perishing under the pressure of these insupportable charges.
Upon every calculation which can be made the result was the same. The French surcharges were a prohibitory duty upon American shipping; and they were just so much worse than would have been a positive and express prohibition, as a slow and torturing death is worse than extinction at a sudden stroke. They left hope, and enterprise, and unwary ardor to pursue their speculations, until they found their inevitable termination in ruin. Such was the necessary operation of the French surcharges upon our merchants. What was the operation of ours upon the merchants of France? You have stated them after the fact in your letter of 31 July. The French shippers were making rapid fortunes upon the same trade by which ours were rushing to destruction. Our surcharges were to the French shipper absolutely nothing; for under them he was sure of making a profitable voyage. The French surcharges upon ours were invariably oppressive, the voyage without exception disastrous. That they did persist in fitting them out was so much the worse for themselves and their country. If instead of laying a countervailing tonnage duty, Congress had passed an act prohibiting the exportation of our own produce in our own vessels to France, from the commencement of the present year, every shipper in the United States who has sent an American vessel laden to France would have been saved a heavy loss. In this point of view, and it is believed a just one, the French surcharge is a whole amount from which no deduction ought to be made: and for this the tonnage duty of ten dollars a ton was not even an equivalent.
The tonnage duty levied upon French vessels by the act of Congress of 15 May was also prohibitory; but it was direct,
and gave notice of itself. If the shortness of time between its passage and the commencement of its operation could be objectionable elsewhere, you have shown that it could not be to the French government, who are in the habitual practice of levying increased duties without giving any previous notice to those from whom they are to be exacted.
Prohibitory duties existing in both countries against the admission of the shipping of the other, the material question to be settled is what shall be done.
The proposal of the United States is, as it has been, perfect reciprocity the principles of our convention with Great Britain. The proposal of Baron Pasquier is, that, without a treaty, the duties of each of the two countries upon the navigation of the other should be so adjusted that the benefit of freighting should be shared in equal proportions by the shipping of both.
To this proposal we cannot accede.
First. Because it supposes an agreement to be binding on the two governments without treaty or convention. We are not aware how such an agreement could be made.
Second. Because it supposes that this informal agreement shall be binding on the legislatures of both nations. The executive of the United States has no power to make such a compact.
Third. Because the principle itself of the arrangement is inadmissible. It calls upon us to consent that our shipping should bear one-half the burdens which France by her regulations thinks proper to impose upon her own. If we lay no such onerous burdens upon our own shipping interest, it is not to be expected that we shall submit to have them laid upon it by a foreign power. The shipping of France in fair competition with ours has the great advantage of cheaper outfits and a lower rate of seamen's wages. If, not
withstanding that, the French shipping cannot stand the competition with ours, the remedy for France is to remove the burden from her own shippers which she has laid upon them, and not to ask us to assist her in laying half of it upon
With regard to the claim of special and unconstitutional privileges for the vessels of France in the ports of the state of Louisiana, the pretension is utterly unfounded. I have already written to you upon this subject, and now enclose copies of Mr. de Neuville's two letters to me concerning it, and of my answer to the first of them. The reply contains no new argument. The pretension that France has any claim of right whatever in the ports of Louisiana, one of the states of the American Union, which she has not in the other states, is not only without any support from the treaty of cession, but is in direct contravention to it.
The claim which Baron Pasquier advances of a right to the assistance of this government in arresting and transporting to the French vessels in our ports seamen deserters from them, is equally unfounded. No such right is recognized by the laws of nations. If France by her municipal ordinances restores all deserting seamen to their vessels, it gives her no right to claim the same restoration from others. France, you know, has refused to deliver up a seaman, not merely a deserter from a vessel of the United States, but charged with murder and robbery committed in her; not indeed in a port of France, but at sea. The principle upon which she gave this refuge to the robber and murderer of the Plattsburg applies with double force to the case of seamen guilty at the worst of nothing more than a breach of contract. We do not complain of this refusal of France, but we say its principle leaves her not the shadow of a claim to the restoration of deserters as a right.