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On entering upon the duties of my station, I found the United States an unsuccessful applicant to the justice of France, for the satisfaction of claims, the validity of which was never questionable, and has now been most solemnly admitted by France herself. The antiquity of these claims, their high justice, and the aggravating circumstances out of which they arose, are too familiar to the American People to require description. It is sufficient to say that, for a period of ten years and upwards, our commerce was, with but little interruption, the subject of constant aggressions ou the part of France-aggressions, the ordinary features of which were condemnations of vessels and cargoes under arbitrary decrees, adopted in contravention, as well of the laws of nations as of treaty stipulations ; burnings on the high seas, and seizures and confiscations, under special imperial rescripts, in the ports of other nations occupied by the arınies, or under the control, of France. Such, it is now conceeded, is the character of the wrongs we sufferedwrongs, in many cases, so flagrant, that even their authors never denied our right to reparation. of the extent of these injuries, some conception may be formed from the fact, that after the burning of a large amount at sea, and the necessary deterioration, in other cases, by long detention, the American property so seized and sacrificed at forced sales, excluding what was adjudged to privateers, before or without condemnation, brought into the French treasury upwards of twenty-four millions of francs, besides large custom-house duties.
The subject had already been an affair of twenty years' uniuterrupted negotiation, except for a short time, when France was overwhelmed by the military power of united Europe. During this period, whilst other nations were extortiog from her payment of their claims at the point of the bayonet, the United States intermitted their demand for justice, out of respect to the oppressed condition of a gallant people, to whom they felt under obligations for fraternal assistance in their own days of suffering and of peril. The bad effects of these protracted and unavailing discussions, as well upon our relations with France as upon our national character, were obvious; and the line of duty was to my mind equally
This was, either to insist upon the adjustment of our claims within a reasonable period, or 10 abaudon them altogether. I could not doubt, that by this course, the interests and honor of both countries would be best consulted Instructions were therefore given in this spirit to the Minister who was sent out once more to demand reparation. Upon the nieeting of Congress, in December, 1829, I felt it my duty to speak of these claims, and the delays of France, in terms calculated to call the serious ttention of both countries to the subject. The then French Ministry took exception to the message, on the ground of its containing a menace, under which it was not agreeable to the French Government to negotiate. The American Minister, of his own accord refuted the construction which was attempted to be put upon the message, and, at the same time called to the recollection of the French Ministry, that the President's message was a conimunication addressed, not to foreign Governments, but to the Congress of the United States, in which it was enjoined upon him, by the constitution, to lay before that body information of the state of the Union, comprehending its foreign as well as its domestic relations ; and that if, in the discharge of this duty, he felt it incumbant upon him to sunimon the attention of Congress, in due time, to whai might be the possible consequences of existir.g difficulties with any foreign Government, he might fairly be supposed to do so, under a sense of what was due from him, in a frank communication with another branch of his own Gover nient, and not from any inteution of bolding a menace over a foreign power. The views taken by him received my approbation; the
French Government was satisfied, and the negotiation was continued. It terminated in the treaty of July 4, 1831, recognizing the justice of our claims, in part, and promising payment to the amount of twenty-five millions of francs, in six annual insta!ments.
The ratifications of this treaty were exchanged at Washington, on the 2d of February, 1932, and in five days thereafter it was laid before Congress, who immediately passed the acts necessary, on our part, to secure to France the commercial advantages conceded to her in the compact. The treaty had previously been solemnly ratified by the King of the French, in terms which are certainly not mere matters of form, and of which the translation is as follows: “We, approving the above “convention, in all and each of the dispositions which are contained in it, " do declare, by ourselves, as well as by our heirs and successors, inaiii " is accepted, approved, ratifier, and confirmed; and by these presents, • signed by our hand, we do accept, approve, ratify, and confirm it; “ promising on the faith and word of a King, to observe it, and to cause " it to be observed inviolably, without ever contravening it, or suffering “ it to be contravened, directly or indirectly, for any cause, or under any pretence whatsoever."
Official information of the exchange of ratifications in the United States reached Paris whilst the Chambers were in session. The extraordinary, and to us injurious, delays of the French Goreroment, in their action upon the subject of its sulfilment, have been heretofore stated to Congress, and I have no disposition to enlarge upon them here. It is sufficient to observe that the then pending session was allowed to expire without even an effort to obtain the necessary appropriations ; that the two succcèding ones were also suffered to pass away without any thing like a serious attempt to obtain a decision upon the subject; and that it was not until the fourth session, almost three years aster the conclusion of the treaty, a od more than two years after the exchange of ratifica. tions, that the bill for ihe execution of the treaty was pressed to a vote and rejected.
In the mean time, the Government of the United States, having full coofidence that a treaty entered into and so solemnly ratified by the French King, would be executed in good faith, and not doubting that provision would be made for the payment of the first instalment, which was to become due on the second day of February, 1833, negotiated a draft for the amount through the Bank of the United States. When this draft was presented by the holder, with the credentials required by the trealy to authorize him to receive the money, the Governineut of France allowed it to be protested. In addition to the injurs in the non. payment of the money by France, conforınably to her engagement, the United States were exposed to a heavy claim on the part of the Bank, under pretence of damages, in satisfaction of which that institution seized upon, and still retains, an equal amount of the public moneys. Congress was in session when the decision of the Chambers reached Washington ; and an iminediate communication of this apparently final decision of France, not to fulfil the stipulations of the treaty, was the course naturally to be expected from the President. The deep tone of dissatisfaction which pervaded the public. mind, and the correspondent excitement produced in Congress by only a general knowledge of the result, rendered it more than probable that a resort to immediate measures of redress would be the consequence of calling the attention of that body to the suhject. Sincerely desirous of preserving the pacific relations which had so long existed between the iwo countries, I was anxious to avoid this course, if I could be satisfied that by doing so, neither the interest nor the honor of my country would be compromitted.
Without the fullest assurances upon that point, I could not hope to acguit myself of the responsibility to be incurred, in suffering Congress 10 adjourn without laying the subject before them. Those received by me were believed to be of that character.
That the feelings produced in the United States by the news of the rejection of the appropriation, would be such as I have described them to have been, was foreseen by the French Governnient, and prompt measures were taken hy it to prevent the consequences. The King, in person, expressed through our Minister at Paris, his profound regret at the decision of the Chambers, and promised to send, forthwith, a national ship, with despatches to his Minister here, authorizing hins to give such assurances as would satisfy the Government and People of the United States, that the treaty would yet be "faithfully executed by France. The national ship arrived, and the Minister received his instructions, Claiming to act under the authority derived from them, he gave to this Government, in the name of his, the most solemn assurances
that as soon after the new elections as the charter would permit, the French Chambers would be convened, and the attempt to procure the necessary a ppropriations renewed; that all the constitutional powers of the King and his Ministers should be put in requisition to accomplish the object; and he was understood, and so expressly informed by this Government at the time, to engage, that the question should be pressed to a decision at a period sufficiently early to permit information of the result to be communicated to Congress at the commencement of their next session. Relying upon these assurances, 'I incurred the responsibility, great as I regarded it to be, of suffering Congress to separate without communicating with them upon the subject.
The expectations justly founded upon the promises thus solemnly made to this Government by that of France, were not realized. The French Chambers met on the 31st of July, 1834, soon after the elcction ; and although our Minister in Paris urged the French Ministry to bring the subject before them, they declined doing 80. He next insisted thai the Chambers, if prorogued without acting on the subject, should be reassembled at a period so early that the action on the trenty might be known in Washington prior to the meeting of Congress. This reasonable request was not only declined, but the Chan.bers were prorogued to the 29th of December, a day so late that their decision, however urgentis pressed, could not, in all probability, be obtained in time to reach Washington before the necessary adjournment of Congress by the constitution. The reasons given by the Ministry for refusing to convoke the Chambers at an earlier period, were afterwards shown not to be insuperable, by their actual couvocation on the 1st of December, under a special call, for domestic purposes--which fact, however, did not become known to this Governnient until after the commencement of the last session or Congress.
Thus disappointed in our just expectations, it became my imperative duty to cousuit with Congress in regard to the expediency of a resort to retaliatory measures, in case the stipulations of the treaty should uot be speedily complied with; and to recominend such as, in my judgment, the occasion called for. To this end, an unreserved communication of the case, in all its aspects, became indi: pensable. To have shrunk, in making it, from saying all that was necessary to its correct understand. ing, and that the truth would justify, for fear of giving offence to others, would have been unworthy of us. To have gone, on the other hand, a single step further, for the purpose of wounding the pride of a Goveinment and people with whom we had so many motives for cultivating relations of a nity and reciprocal advantage, would bave been unwise and improper. Admonished by the past of the difficulty of making even the simplesi statement of our wrongs without disturbing the sensibilities of those who had, by their position, become responsible for their redress, and earnestly desirous of preventing further obstacles from that source, I went out of my way to preclude a construction of the message, by which the recommendation that was made to Congress might be regarded as a menace to France, in not only disavowing such a design, but in declaring that her pride and her power were too well known to expect any thing from her fears. The message did not reach Paris until more ihan a month after the Chambers had been in session ; and such was the insensibility of the Ministry to our rightful claims and just expectations,
that our Minister had been informed that the matter, when introduced, would not be pressed as a cabinet measure.
Although the message was not officially communicated to the French Government, and notwithstanding the declaration to the contrary which it containerl, the French Ministry decided to consider the conditional recommendatiou of reprisals, a menace, and an insult, which the hovor of the nation made it incumbent on them to resent. The measures resorted to by them to evince their sense of the supposed indignity, were, the inmediate recall of their Minister at Washington, the offer of passports to the American Minister at Paris, and a public notice to the Legislative Chambers, that all diplomatic intercourse with the United States had been suspended.
Having in this manner vindicated the dignity of France, they next proceeded to illustrate her justice. To this end, a bill was immediately introduced into the Chamber of Deputies, proposing to make the appropriations necessary to carry into effect the treaty. As this bill subsequently passed into a law, the provisions of which now constitute the main subject of difficulty between the two nations, it becomes my duty in order to place the subject before you in a clear light, to trace the history of its passage, and to refer, with soine particularity, to the proceedings and discussions in regard to it. The Minister of Finance, in his opening speech, alluded to the measures which had been adopted to resent the
supposed indignity, and recommended the execution of the trenty as a measure required by the honor and justice of France. He, as the organ of the Ministry, declared the message, so long as it had not received the sanction of Congress, a mere expression of the personal opinion of the
President, for which neither the Government nor Penple of the United States were responsible, and that an engagement had been entered into, for the fulfilment of which the honor of France was pledged. Entertain. ing these views, the single condition which the French Ministry proposed to annex to the payment of the money, was, that it should not be made until it was ascertained that the Government of the United States had done nothing to injure the interests of France ; or, in other words, that no steps had been authorized by Congress of a hostile character towards France.
What the disposition or action of Congress night be, was then unknown in the French Cabinet. But, on the 14th of January, the Senate resolved that it was, at that time, inexpedient to adopt any legislative measures in regard to the state of affairs between the United States and France, and no action had occurred on this subject in the House of Representatives. These facts were known in Paris prior to the 28th of March, 1835, when the counmittee, to whom the bill of indemnification had been referred, reported it to the Chamber of Deputies. That committee substantially reechoed the sentiments of the Ministry, declared that Congress had set aside the proposition of the Presideut, and recommended the passage of the bill, without any other restriction than that originally proposed. Thus was it known to the French Ministry and Chambers, that if the position assumed by them, and which had been so frequently and solemnly announced as the only one compatible with the honor of France, was maintained, and the bill passed as originally proposed, the money would be paid, and there would be an end of this unfortunate controversy.
But this cheering prospect was soon destroyed, by an amendment introduced into the bill, at the moment of its passage, providing that the money should not be paid until the French Govervinent had receiver satisfactory explanations of the President's message, of the 2d December, 1834 ; and what is still more extraordinary, the President of the Council of Ministers allopted this amendment, and consented to its incorporation in the bill. In regard to a supposed insult which had been formally resented by the recall of their Minister, and the offer or pass. ports to ours, they now, for the first time, proposed to ask explanations. Sentimenis and propositions, which they had declared could not justly be imputed to the Government or People of the United States, are set up as obstacles to the performance of an act of conceded justice to that Governnient and People. They had declared that the honor of France required the fulólment of the engagement into which the King had entered, unless Congress adopted the recommendations of the nessage. They ascertaived that Congress did not adopt them, and yet thai fulfilment in refused, tuless they first obtain from the President explanations of an opinion characterized by themselves as personal and inoperative.
The conception that it was my intention to menace or insult the Government of France, is as unfounded as the attempt to extort from the fears of that nation what her sense of justice may deny would be vain and ridiculous. But the constitution of the United States imposes on