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Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 : from Gales and Seaton's Annals of Congress, from their Register of debates, and from the official reported debates by John C. Rives online

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Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 : from Gales and Seaton's Annals of Congress, from their Register of debates, and from the official reported debates by John C. Rives → online text (page 94 of 188)
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whom the fortune of war had thrown into the
power of Great Britain ; and he beDeved the
present law should be confined to persons who
should be captured by vessels of the United
States. And it would be most effectual in this
way; because if it were to operate against other
French citizens in this country, the French Gov-
ernment would not be concerned about it, since
ninety-nine out of a hundred of those citizens
are probably emigrants, or persons for whose
safety they have no interest.

If by meeting every hostile act of the French
'Government by a measure of a ramilar kind, we
could render this country more respectable, Mr.
G. should be in favor of it; but, in the present
case, he did not think the measure applicable.
There was a great difference, he said, oetween
measures of hostility and retaliation. Measures
of retaliation could do no good, except as pre-
ventives; and as the decree in question nad
already been two years in force without being
carried into effect, it could scarcely be expected
that it would now be exercised.

It must be allowed, Mr. G. said, that some
change had taken place in our situation with
respect to France ; but it seemed as if gentle-
men wished, by the passing of this bill, to take
off any impression of this kind which niight
have be^i made on l^e people by the late ap-

e>intment of Ministers to treat with France,
r. G. did not mean to express any opinion on
the probable issue of that nomination. He be-
lieved the Prbsidsnt had taken certain mea-
sures ; and that nothing which he could do or
say would either accelerate or delay those mea-
sures. He wished to leave them uncontrolled,
to have the effect they may, whatever it may
be. Tet, in relation to what had been said
with respect to Gnadaloupe, he believed that
captures had taken place ; yet, when we speak
of information, there was a letter written by
one of the commanders of our vessels, whi(^
says, that a number of vessels go there for the
purpose of being taken, in order to carry on a
trade contrary to the laws of the United States.
[The Speakxb called to order.] Mr. G. said he
was about to conclude. He considered this bill
as calculated to have but little effect, and had
it not been for the arguments of the gentleman
from Massachusetts, he should have been at a
loss to have known for what reason it was

Mr. Dana said, "with what measure you
mete, the same shall be measured to you
again," was a doctrine long since established.
It was a doctrine which injured man had as-
sumed in idl countries, and the justice of which
had been universally admitted.

An appeal to this national sentiment, and to
the writers on this subject, would be a suffi-
cient answer to tibe gentleman's humanity ibr
Frenchmen, to the forgetfulness of his feUow-

The general principles of the law are too just
to be questioned. Tne gentleman from Penn-
sylvania, well knowing that the national fed-

Digitized by




Mabch, 1799.]

Zoio of Retaliaium,

[H. OP R.

ings of man must approve of the principle^
undertakes to distinguish away the snbject In-
stead of coming forward to the point, he has
gone into complaints against British inhuman-
ity. But why speak of British inhumanity,
if not to embarrass this bill? This biQ is in*
tended against the French nation. If the gen-
tleman* wished a similar law against the British,
neither he nor his followers could be suspected
of any attachment to that nation, which would
have prevented him or them from bringing for-
ward such a measure. The gentleman knew
8uch a measure would be embarrassed with diffi-
culties ; and, if it failed, it would deprive him
of the argument he now makes use o£ Shall
we, said Mr. D., because our seamen have been
first injured by Great Britain, when France
uses them still worse, abandon them ? Because
they have been once injured with impunity,
shall we turn our backs upon them for ever?
The doctrine is too inhuman, too absurd, to be

The gentleman from Pennsvlvania assigns an-
other reason against this biU. To make it ef-
fectual he says certain information must be giv-
en to the Pbisident, viz : that the person ill-
treated is an American seaman ; and tnat he has
received his ill-treatment in pursuance of a de-
cree of the French Government. Has the gen-
tleman to learn that, when the officers of the
French Government do an act of violence,
which the principles of humanity and the law
of nations condemn, if the nation does not
punish its officers for the act, it must be done
in pursuance of the orders of Government?

The gentleman's other objection was honor-
able to Americans. It was that the humanity
of the Pbssidei«t, and of the people of this
country, would not suffer the law, if passed, to
be carried into effect. Mr. D. scud it was diffi-
cult to reason on this subject, but, admitting
the fact, it affords a decisive proof that this
power will never be abused, and at the worst,
the law could only be ineffectual, and it might
have the good effect of preventing the unprin-
cipled murder of our countrymen.

The gentleman from Pennsylvania had said
that the decree of the British Cabinet might
have had some effect in procuring a suspension
of the decree of the Executive Directory.

[Mr. Gallatqt denied having said that the
French Government had suspended their decree
on account of the threats of the British. "Mr.
King's first letter is dated the 27th of Novem-
ber, and his second, mentioning the suspension
of the decree, the 28th, so that that was impos-

The gentleman has taken an opportunity of
referring to the note of Lord Grenville. If the
gentleman was disposed to make a philippic
against Lord Grenville, Mr. D. said, he had no
reason to vindicate him ; but, when the gentie-
man went so far beside the question to do it, it
showed he had littie respect for his audience.
But the gentieman from Pennsylvania was cer-
tunly incorrecti when he said the note of Lord

Grenville was a direct admission that impressed
American seamen were held on board the Bri-
tish fleet. He would state a case in which
American seamen would be liable to the effects
of the French decree, where the British Gov-
ernment could not be censurable. Suppose an
American vessel captured and plundered by the
French, and some of our seamen, to escape the
severities of a French dungeon, had escaped
and got on board of a British ship of war, hoping
by that means, in time, to get to their own
country. Such cases, he had no doubt, had hap-
pened, and in such, the gentieman must allow,
our citizens must be liable to suffer as pirates,
without any blame resting on the conduct of
the British. ^

Mr. Otis sidd, it had been so long unfashion-
able to vindicate the conduct of France, or to
make apologies in her behalf, that those who
now wished to do it, attempt to excite hatred
against another nation. The gentieman from
Pennsylvania has gone altogether upon this
principle. He has said but littie against the
principle of the bilL His only objection to it
was that it was not sufficientiy extensive. Ad-
mitting the injuries to exist with respect to
Great Britain, and that many of our seamen
have been impressed by them, did the gentle-
ihan wish us to retaliate by impressing Briti^
seamen? No, he would be the first to oppose
such a law; and yet this is the only lust kind
of retaliation that could be adopted, for he
would not wish us, because the British have
impressed our seamen, to put the first British
subject we meet to death ; and to talk of im-
pressing their seaman, would be perfectiy ridi-

It was not incumbent upon Mm, Mr. 0. said,
to enter into any argument to distinguish be-
tween the injuries which we have received from
the French and British Grovemments, nor to

Salliate the conduct of any nation which has
one us wrong ; but when things perfectiy clear
are violentiy distorted, to excite undue pr^u-
dices, with a view of diverting the attention of
the House from the subject before them, it be-
comes necessary to notice the attempt. Let it
be granted that Great Britain impresses our
seamen; she renounces every right to do so.
She perseveres, it is true, in her right to re-
claim her own seamen from on board our ves-
sels, and in making this claim, some abuses may
have taken place.

If the gentieman from Pennfiylvania had seen
fit to do justice to Lord Grenville, he would
have turned to another document laid before
Congress by the Secretary of State last year,
wherein he says that Great Britain had never
assumed the principle of impressing American
seamen. His friend from South Carolina (Mr.
PmoKNET) afltoaed what he said, and showed
that the great difficulty was in preventing false
passports from being given. This was verified
in tiie conduct of Oaptain Loringand the Balti-
more doop of war. The difference, Mr, O.
said, between the conduct of France and Great

Digitized by




H. OF B.]

Voie qf Thank$,

[BiABOS, 1799.

Britftin towards us was palpable. Great Britain
never refused to rectify grievances 5 ehe never
heaped outrages upon us. If she had, he should
have been for vengeance and war against that
country, and the cry would certainly have
been echoed by the gentleman from Pennsyl-

Mr. O. sdd he disdained that sort of sensibi-
lity which his friend from Connecticut (Mr.
Daka) seemed to think redounded to the honor
of the people of this country. He owned it
would not wound his feelings, in the smallest
degree, to see the law of retaliation executed
upon any French citizen in America. If one
.^erican citizen fell a sacrifice to the decree of
Fnmoe, it would altogether absorb his sympa-
thies for Frenchmen. There is a French citizen,
said he, now living in the neighborhood of New
York, who originally came here as Ambassador
from the French Republic; and I must say that
I should not feel the least sensibility if he &ould
fall a victim to this law! Indeed, there were
French citizens enough on whom to execute the
law ; though he joined gentlemen on all sides
of the House in hoping that there would be no
occasion to carry it into effect.

The gentleman from New York says that a
law of this kind ought not to be passed, except
in time of war; and yet, said Mr. O., the gen-
tleman wiU not let us go to war, and in the
mean time our citizens may suffer with impunity
under the bloody decrees of France. But he
believed Congress had clearly the power, from,
those words of the constitution which say,
^Hhey shall grant letters of marque and repri-
sal" — ^reprisal, doubtless, not only against ships,
but against property and persons, to pass a law
of this kind. Mr. O. thought it necessary, there-
foi^ to show to the French Republic that we
are not negotiating through fear ; that we are
desirous of keeping peace with all the world, so
long as we can do it connstent with our honor
and independence; but no longer.

Mr. 8. SiOTH wished to have postponed this
biU till the next session. He thought it impro-
per as it originally stood; as the decree which
was passed two years ago was never acted upon.
Indeed he had somewhere seen that American
•eamen were released on application of Mr.
Skipwith, our Consul in France. The bill, as
amended, is far less objectionable, yet he wish-
ed it were postponed till next session, because
he never wished to see a law of this kind on
our code. He agreed with the gentleman from
Connecticut that it was legalizing murder.

Mr. 8. believed the gentleman from Massa-
chusetts mistaken in many respects. He himself
. believed France was disposed to make peace.
Mr. 8. proposed an amendment to the bill con-
fining tne retaliation to persons captured in pur-
suance of any of the laws of the United States.
If this amendment was agreed to, the bill would
be less exceptionable; for, though the gentle-
man from Massachusetts had said he should not
regret the murder of any French citizen, under
this law, nothing surely but the heat of argu-

ment could have led him to say this; he must
own he should: nor did he believe that that
gentleman, or any other, could lay hold of an
unfortunate Frenchman, and put him to death,
though one of our citizens might have suffered
unjustly and cruelly in France.

The amendment was carried.

Mr. Maook did not wish to see this law in
our code. In his opinion nothing but the ut-
most necessity ought to induce us to pass it
Nor could he believe that the gentleman from
Massachusetts could see any man, even if taken
in arms, put to death in cold blood! Though
it might be right to punish those who passed
the decree, if they could be laid hold o^ it was
a moumfol thing to retaliate upon innocent
persons ^e offences of the guilty.

The gentleman from Connecticut had quoted
a scriptural passage — ** With the same measure
that you mete, the same shall be measured unto
you." In the same volume, Mr. M. said, he
would also find, ^^Do unto others as ye would
they shoidd do unto you ; " and a law of this
kind could not be justified upon the latter prin-

It is said we ought to show that we do not*
act from fear. He thought this one of the lost
measures the House should pass to evince that,
Mr. M. hoped, that on the last evening of the
session, a Dili of this kind would not be pressed.
The members had heretofore been accustomed
to part in good humor, at the close of the ses-
sion, however they might have differed in the
course of it. He ho^ they should not now
depart from this custom. He therefore moved
to postpone the bill till next session.

The question for postponement was negatived
-48 to 87.

After a few observations from Mr. MoDowsll,
against the bill, it was ordered to be read a third
time and passed — ^yeas 66, nays 80.

A motion was made by Mr. LivmosroN, to
a^oum till ten in the morning, as it would be
impossible to get through the busmess to-night,
and he understood the Senate were about to
adjourn to that time.

Mr. Dajta proposed to adjourn till seven io
the evening; but that motion being negatived,
the House adjourned till ten oVlock on Sunday

SuimAT MoBNuro, March 8.
Several reports were made by the Committee
of Enrolment, and sundry messages communi-
cated fi^m the Senate relative to the bins in
their passage.

Vote of Thanks.

Mr. Cbamfun rose and addressed the House
as follows:

^^ Sensible as I am of the importance of the
duties that at all time? attach to a gentleman
who presides over the deliberations of this as-
semblv, and more especially in times of immi-
nent danger^ impreased with the able and ho-
norable manner in which those duties have been

Digitized by



March, 1799.]

RdaUotu with I\ranee,

[H. OF B.

discharged by the gentleman who now fills the
chair; and beUeying the sentiments I entertain
on tiiis occasion to be in perfect unison with
those of every member of this Hoose — ^I beg
leave to submit a resolution expressive of the
sense of the House on this subject : "
He then moved the following resolution :
" Resolved, That the thanks of this House be pre-
sented to Jonathan Dayton, in testimony of their ap-
probation of his conduct in diseharging the aidnoos
and important duties assigned him whilst in the

This moticm was received by the Clerk, and
the question being put upon it by him, there
appeared for it 40, ag^ainst it 22.

The resolution being carried, the Bfbakeb
rose and addressed the House as follows :

No language, gentlemen, can do justice to those
feelings which this second vote of approbation of my
conduct, after four years* preadency in the House of
Representatives, has excited in my breast. It would
be unjust in me not to acknowledge, that to the sup-
port uniformly afforded, and to the confidence unre-
mittedly reposed in me, rather than to any merit of
my own, is to be ascribed the success with which you
are pleased to declare that the duties of the chair
have been executed.

Permit me to say, that far from being displeased,
I have, on the contrary, been vexy much gratified at
beaxing that the resolution of thanks has not been

passed, as a mere matter of form, unaidmonsly. As
in all public bodies, there have ever been found men
whose approbation must be considered by the meri-
torious as a censure, so in ^is body, there are, un-
happily, some whose censure will be regarded by all
whose esteem I value, as the highest testimony of
merit. About to abandon the seat which I have held
in this branch of the General Legislature for eight
successive years, I take advantage of the moment
which precedes our separation to bid you, gentlemen,
an affectionate fazewelL

Mr. Macon moved the usual resolution ap-
pointing a joint committee with the Senate, to
mform the Pbesident, that Oongress is ready to
adjourn without day, unless he has any farther
communication to make them; which being
agreed to, Messrs. Otis, MA.ooi!r, and Bsooxs,
were appointed a committee on the part of this

Mr. Otis, from the committee appointed to
wait upon the Pbbsidsnt, informed the House
that they had performed that service ; and he
informed them ** that he had no further com-
munication to make, except to express hie wish
for the health and happiness of the membersi
and a pleasant journey home to their families
and friends.'^

The Speajceb then a^'ourned the House with-
out day.


The fifth Congress, the first under the adminis-
tration of Mr. John Adanu^ was wholly occupied
with measures of defence against France, and incur-
red debt and taxes in these preparations which great-
ly impaired its popularity, and contributed to the
overthrow of the federal party : but there was great
necessity for these exertions at that time, and both na-
tional honor, and national interest, and national safe-
ty req;aired them to be made. Besides the insults
which went to our honor, and the depredations which
affected our commerce, there were threats of attack
and invasion not to be despised. The Directory, in-
flated with the successes of Buonaparte in Italy,
with the subjugation of several small powers, the
transformation of several principalities and kingdoms
into republics, the peace with the Emperor of Ger-
many, the neutralization of some kingdoms and the
alliance of others : exalted with so much success,
and anxious to bring the United States into their
f^ystem and espedally into the ^ar with Great
Britain, had recourse to all the means of accom-
plishing its purpofl^-^first, by entreaties ; affcerwanU
by insults and outrages ; and finally by threats of
war. It is difficult for general history to give a view
of these proceedings, and it is only in contomporaiy

sources that they can be adequately studied. Tlie
Debates of Congress are one, and the largest one, of
Ihese sources; documents on which the debates are*
founded are another : and it is often desirable, in
after time, to produce these documents in greater
extent than used in the debate. That is the case
with these debates on French affairs during the time
of which we speak, and the communications of our
Ministers sent to Paris furnish the documentary
evidence necessaiy to complete them-— eridence too
well known to require copious quotation at the time,
but now littie known to the subsequent generation.
This note then, in the nature of an appendix to the
debates of the fifth Congress, will contain extracts
from the dispatches of the Mimsters of that day :
and first of General Piiuskney.

Arrivmg at Paris the 5th of December 1796, he
immediately waited on the Minister of Exterior Re-
lations (Citizen Charles De la Croix) in company with
Mr. Monroe, according to an appointment previously
made, and had an interview with him ; of which he
^ves this account in a dispatch to Mr. Pickering,
Secretary of State : (Extracte only are ffiven,)

Mr. Monroe and myself, with my secretary. Major
Butiedge, about two o'clock, waited upon M. Do la

Digitized by




ReUuions tpUh France.

Croix, and I was introdnced by Mr. Monroe as the
person appointed as his successor. The Minister at
first received ns with great stiffeess, hnt afterwards,
on onr conversing on some general subjects, he un-
bent and behaved with civility ; and, on receiving
the official copies of our letter of credence and recall,
said he would deliver them, without delay, to the
Directoiy. He desired Major Rutledge to let him
have our names of baptism, and our ages, that cards
of hospitality might be made out, which he said were
necessary to reside here unmolested. Tliis requisi-
tion was immediately complied with, and he promised
to send the cards Ae next morning. When this in-
terview was known, the reports which had been
spread abroad before my arrival, of my not being re-
ceived by the Directory, vanished, and the general
idea seemed to be that there would be no objection to
receive me as Minister from America. At 11 o'clock,
on Monday, December 12, Mr. Prevost (Mr. Mon-
roe's secretary) called upon me, and told me that
Mr. Monroe had just received a letter from M. De la
Croix, and desired to know if I had received one. I
said no. He then showed me M. De la Croix's to
Mr. Monroe, which was as follows : [Da^ Dec, 9.

Citizen Mikisteb : I hasten to lay before the Ex-
ecutive Directory the copies of your letters of recall,
and of the letter of credence of Mr. Pinckney, whom the
Pbesident of the United States has appointed to
Euoceed you, in the quality of Minister Plenipotentiary
of the United States near the French Republic The
Directory has charged me to notify you " that it will
not acknowledge nor receive another Minister Pleni-
potentiary from the United States, until after the
redress of the grievances demanded of the American
Government, and which the French Republic has a
right to expect from it" [Do/e, Dec. 11.

I waited until next morning, expecting to receive
a notification from M. De la Croix, when, not hear-
ing from him, I wrote him the following letter :

CmzEN Minister : Colonel Monroe has been so
good as to oommunicate to me your letter to him of
the 21st Frimaire, wherein you inform him that you
had submitted to the Executive Directory his letters
of recall, and my letters of credence as Minister Ple-
nipotentiary from the United States of America, and
that the Directory had instructed you to notify him
«« qu il ne reconnoitra et ne recevra plus de Ministre
Plenipotentiaire des Etats Unis jusqu'aprte le re-
dressement des griefs demand^ an Gouvemement
Americain, et que la R6publique Fran^oise est en droit
d*en attendre.** [That it will not acknowledge nor
receive any Minister Plenipotentiary from the United
States, until after the redress of tiie grievances de-
manded of the American Government, and which the
French Republic has a right to expect from it]
This communication has filled me with real sorrow,
as I am thoroughly convinced that the sentiments of
America and its Government — ^for they are one— are
misunderstood, and that I am not permitted even to
attempt to explain them, or, in the terms of my
letters of credence, to endeavor ** to efface unfavor-
able impressions, to banish suspicions, and to restore
that cordiality which was at once the evidence and
pledge of a friendly union." Devoted, as I am, to
the liberty, prosperity, and independence of my own
country, the freedom, happiness, and perfect estab-
lishment of the French Republic, have always been
dear to me, and to have been instrumental in cement-
ing the good nnderstaoding which, from the com-

mencement of their alliance, has subsisted betweea
the two nations, would have been the height of my
ambition. I most fervently pray that there may be
a speedy and candid investigation of those points in
which you differ from us, that affection may banish
distrust, and that the alliance of the two RqnibUcs
minr be perpetuaL

In your letter to Colonel Monroe you do not desire
him to make any communication to me, and I am
indebted to his politeness for the knowledge I have
of the intentions of the Directorj^ I submit to you,
citizen Minister, that, as the letters of recall had been
received by Mr. Monroe, and official copies of his
letters of recall, and my letters of credence, had been
delivered to jrou, that the sentiments of the Dhrectory
should be communicated by you immediately to me,
that I may, without delay, transmit them as from
the Executive of this Republic to the Government of

Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 : from Gales and Seaton's Annals of Congress, from their Register of debates, and from the official reported debates by John C. Rives → online text (page 94 of 188)