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H. OF R.]

Defensive Measures.

[JUNE, 1797.


Mr. Lyon said, except the word "cannons” appoint a committee to consider the propriety of were struck out of it, he could not consent to prohibiting the practice in future, which was vote for the passing of the bill.

agreed to, and a committee of three appoicted. Mr. W. SMITH called for the yeas and nays

CORPS OF ARTILLERISTS, &c. upon the passing of this bill, which were accordingly taken, and stood-yeas 74, nays 8, as fol

Mr. W. Smith moved that the House take up low :

the bill which was under consideration yesterday YEAS—John Allen, George Baer, jun., Abraham when an adjournment took place, viz: the bill Baldwin, David Bard, James A. Bayard, Thos. Blount,

for raising an additional corps of artillerists and Theophilus Bradbury, David Brooks, Nathan Bryan,


engineers; Samuel J. Cabell , John Chapman, Christopher G.

Mr. Macon said, he should not renew his moChamplin, Thomas Claiborne, Matthew Clay, James tion for rejecting the bill, as it might consume Cochran, Joshua Coit, William Craik, John Dawson, more time than letting it take its course; but he John Dennis, George Dent, George Ege, Thomas did not think he showed any want of candor in Evans, Abiel Foster, Dwight Foster, Jonathan Free- wishing to get rid of it in that way. The gentleman, Nathaniel Freeman, jun., Albert Gallatin, Wil- man from South Carolina talked as much about liam B. Giles, James Gillespie, Henry Glen, Chauncey capdor, and showed as little of it as any man in Goodrich, William Gordon, Andrew Gregg, Roger that House. Griswold, John A. Hanna, Robert Goodloe Harper, The bill was referred to a Committee of the Carter B. Harrison, Jonathan N. Havens, William Whole to-morrow. Hindman, David Holmes, Hezekiah L. Hosmer, James Mr. Livingston said, it was well known that H. Imlay, Walter Jones, Edward Livingston, Samuel the Commissioners for settling the British debts Lyman, James Machir, Joseph McDowell, Daniel Mor

were now organized and ready to proceed to busigan, Anthony New, Harrison G. Otis, Josiah Parker, Elisha R. Potter, John Reed, John Rutledge, jun; might arise for want of an agent to check the

It had been suggested that great evils James Schureman, Samuel Sewall

, William Shepard, claims of the British. He should, therefore, proTompson J. Skinner, Thomas Sinnickson, Jeremiah Smith, Nathaniel Smith, Samuel Smith, William pose that such an agent be appointed. He laid a Smith, of Charleston, William Smith, of Pinckney resolution upon the table, directing that provision District, Richard Sprigg, jun., Richard Stanford, John be made by law for enabling the Executive to Swanwick, George Thatcher, Richard Thomas, Mark appoint an'agent for this purpose. Thomson, John E. Van Alen, Joseph B. Varnum,

DEFENSIVE MEASURES. John Williams, and Robert Williams.

Nars—Lucas Elmendorph, William Findley, Mat- The House again resolved itself into a Comthew Locke, Matthew Lyon, Nathaniel Macon, Blair mittee of the Whole on the state of the Union, McClenachan, John Nicholas, and Abraham Venable. and the 5th resolution, viz: that respecting the

arming of merchant vessels, with the amendments PREVENTION OF PRIVATEERING.

which had been yesterday offered, being under Mr. W. Smith, from the committee to whom considerationwas referred the bill for preventing the fitting out Mr. Otis said, it ought to be considered that of privateers, made a report, which recommended they were not about to grant a privilege to our an agreement to all the amendments of the Com- vessels to arm in their own defence, but to modify mittee of the Whole, except one for prohibiting that right. He thought all discussions on the citizens from taking command, or entering on law of nations were secondary; for, if our own board of any vessel with an intent law did not forbid the practice, it was necessary against vessels of the United States; instead of something should be done to regulate it, and when which, they recommended another to be enacted the bill was brought in, gentlemen might direct in a separate law, confining this bill entirely to their objections to such parts of it as they thought private vessels.

proper. There could be no doubt that the law of The House went into a Committee of the nations warranted the practice; but it might be Whole on this report, agreed to it, and afterwards our policy to put it under a stricter control than took it up and agreed to it in the House, and the other nations had done, because all other combill was ordered to be engrossed for a third mercial nations had fleets to protect their comreading.

He spoke of the difference between carMr. W. Smith moved, that a committee be rying arms on board a vessel and of using them. appointed to prepare and report a bill to prohibit Mr. O. referred to a provision in the law of citizens of the United States from taking the nations, which, if it did not positively acknowcommand of, or entering on board, any ship of ledge the right of merchant vessels of neutral war of any foreign Power. A committee of three nations to be armed, at least implied it. It was, was accordingly appointed.

that vessels of war have a right to examine merMr. Cort believed, that some inconveniences chant vessels, and, if they make any resistance, arose from vessels which had been taken prizes they shall be considered as lawful prize, which from citizens of the United States, being again supposed them to be in a capacity to fight. It sold to citizens of this country, and from their was acknowledged that this power might be obtaining fresh registers for them, as the doing of abused; and therefore it was, that they proposed it appeared to be an additional inducement to to restrict it in the most effectual manner. At captures. He therefore proposed a resolution to present there was nothing to prevent the owner


JUNE, 1797.]

Defensive Measures.

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of any vessel from arming it, from which great tention.” But, added Mr. O., if the merchants are disorder might ensue, but the order of the Execu-averse to this proposition, why do they not meet tive, which might be any day, revoked. But and declare their opinions? If they were to do these regulations were scrupulously to avoid this, it would have some weight with him. cause of offence to any nation, and the improper Another gentleman had told them that the loss conduct of the captain of any vessel would be sustained by depredations upon our commerce did disavowed. The only question was, which was not wholly fall upon our merchants, but upon the the best way of doing this. All were agreed that public at large. That the gentleman from Pennthe regulation would be proper to the East Indies sylvania should have supported a theoretical idea and the Mediterranean, but there seemed some of this sort, would not have surprised him; but doubt as to the propriety of including the West that a gentleman, who was himself a merchant, Indies.

should have given countenance to it was extraorMr. O. contended, that if the danger in the dinary. If the merchants and insurers were to West India seas was as great from unauthorized lose the whole of their capitals by these spoliacruisers as it was in the East India or Mediter-tions, would it be any satisfaction to them to be ranean seas (and he thought this had clearly ap- told that the farmers would also be affected by peared) the same regulation ought to be extended their losses? Or, if the matter was reversed, and to that quarter. But it was said it might be the a mildew should destroy the crops of a number of cause of war. He took it for granted such re- farmers, the misfortune would of course raise the strictions would be made in the law as would price of grain, and the public would be affected prevent any real pretext for war, and if the French by the misfortune; yet, the advance in price were determined to act upon specious ones, they would be general, and the suffering would be conwould not want them: and if they had them noi, fined to those who crops had been destroyed. they could manufacture them, and nothing that Seeing, then, said Mr. O., that our commerce is we could do would prevent them from making thus exposed, shall we desist from all prudent war upon us.

measures of protecting it? If we do, we shall be Mr. O. denied that resentment could have all obliged to the mortifying alternative of putting the effect ascribed to it, since it would only ope- our vessels under British convoys, or suffer them rate to any effect upon a few individuals ; nor did to be captured; and he believed if nothing was done he think the captains employed in the West for the protection of our trade, it would be found India service would be less likely to consult the at the next session of Congress, that all the vesinterest of their employers and of their country sels which had arrived safe, would have been thus than those employed in the East India and Medi-convoyed. terranean trade. He denied also, that if a cap- Mr. O. concluded by a complaint of the want tain was so imprudent as to force a vessel into a of candor in charging gentlemen, who advccated rebel port, that it would be a cause of war, nor this motion, with being advocates of war. He would the French Republic ever make it a pre- thought gentlemen had used language in the text of offence. Indeed, if it were a fact that the course of the debate that they would not have unauthorized cruisers in the West Indies were in used out of doors. He feared the time was comrebellion to the French Government, we should, ing when they should be obliged to unite in the in fact, be fighting their battles by fitting our ves-defence of their common country, and he thought sels to oppose their unjustifiable attacks.

it would be well to avoid all unreasonable provoThe gentleman from New York had objected cation. But, if gentlemen were determined to to this proposition because it appeared naked. say, because he advocated the arming of our He thought this no objection, because the genile- merchant vessels, that he advocated a war proman could take it out into the committee room position, and that it would produce war in six and clothe it with his own ideas. The gentle months, he could not help it. The public must man from Pennsylvania had said the expense judge between them. would be an objection; but he might have known Mr. Varnum said the gentleman last up had that no one would be forced into the regulation. taken much pains to show that the citizens of the But it was said the merchants were against arm- United States had a right to arm their vessels, and ing their vessels. They were apt, he said, to sup- to resist the attacks of foreign nations. If this pose that because half a dozen persons with whom were true, he was astonished the doctrine should they conversed were of their opinion, that every have lain so long dormant. But he believed the body thought alike.

right had not been considered to exist, and he beBut suppose this was the opinion of some mer- lieved it ought to exist. Though the President chants, did not they expect there would be other had forbidden the arming of merchant vessels, yet measures taken for the protection of our trade? gentlemen asserted they had a right to do it. In order to put the matter upon a right footing, (Mr. Otis interrupted Mr. Varnum to read an gentlemen should say to these merchants, “ We extract from the President's Speech on the subwill do nothing; we are willing that privateers ject, where he says he did not doubt the policy should not only come off your Capes, but up to and propriety of merchants arming their vessels.] your city, and take your bank; (he did not know Mr. V. said the President might not doubt the powhether there would be any one found to wel- licy and propriety, and yet not be satisfied as to come them ;) we want to go home; the weather the legality of the measure. If individuals had gets warm ; our own affairs have need of our at-I this right, he hoped they should pass a law before

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Defensive Measures.

[JUNE, 1797.

they, rose, to prevent its exercise, as he doubted trary, would be to bring the Executive into a not if this plan was gone into that this country situation which he did not deserve. would soon be involved in the horrors of war. The gentlemen declared it was their intention

Mr. V. wished to know what cause existed at to suppress a natural right. He would not wilpresent more than for four years past, for going lingly dispute their intention, but he believed this into this measure. Gentlemen had brought for- was not tne whole of it, because the gentleman ward many ideal depredations committed by the from South Carolina had spoken of forcing our French Republic, of which no evidence had been vessels into the rebel ports of the West Indies, attempted to be adduced. They had proof indeed than which no step could be taken which would of three or four vessels being taken inio France in sooner lead to a war. But gentlemen said that the report of Major Mountflorence, yet gentlemen the law of nations countenanced this doctrine, and exclaimed that our commerce was laid at the feet said it remained with them who opposed it to of France. If this were so, why did not the evi- prove the contrary. The fact was, the law of dences lie before them? The cries of women and nations was silent upon this point. But if it had children, which had been the other day introduced, been a beneficial thing, and conducive to the hapwas no proof. He believed those cries had been piness of a country, would it not have been at produced by an overbearing spirit of speculation, some time acted upon, and noticed by the writers in this country, more than by the depredations of on the law of nations? And is not their silence any nation whatever. He saw nothing in the pretty strong evidence that the right was never French Republic like a wish to injure the property exercised ? The reason of the case was strong of the citizens of the United States. Mr. V.then against the practice, as, if unrestrained, it was took notice of the decree which they had taken acknowledged it would lead directly to war, as it in respect to the British, and doubted not, when would have a tendency to violate the rights of our negotiators should settle that business, that other nations; and if this would be the natural the present misunderstanding would be done away, consequence of the measure unrestrained, he beand they would be convinced of our good wishes lieved the same effects would be produced, nottowards them. He did not wonder that the withstanding any restraints which might be French should have been offended with this coun- enacted to regulate the practice; and if they autry. He thought they had cause for offence in thorized a practice which produced evil, it would the British Treaty; nor was he of opinion that be the same as if they authorized the evil. our conduct towards them had been more friendly But gentlemen say this measure could give the than to other nations, which he thought they French no real offence, and if they would act bad some reason to expect; not but that he ap- from specious ones, they would never be in want plauded our Executive in taking such a part as of them. Mr. N. said he did not want to remove was calculated to keep us out of the war. He specious pretences of offence, and, if this country believed it would have been a wise thing not to gave no solid ones, he should never be heard to have entered into any treaty with either nation raise his voice in favor of France. But it was his till the conclusion of the war.—[The Chairman opinion this proposition was pregnant with real reminded Mr. V. of the question.] He concluded offence. with hoping we should wait the event of negotia- The gentleman last up seemed to think that if tion, without doing anything which might event the merchants were indisposed to the measure, ually lead to war.

then it would not be carried into effect, and of Mr. Nicholas would not again have troubled course could do no harm; but, though the genethe committee, had not the importance of the rality of merchants might be opposed to it, yet question appeared to him to require it. They there might be enough ready to enter into it to were told that merchants had a right to arm their involve the country in mischief. For, when once vessels, and a motion was made to sanction the this business was gone into, they could not sayarming of them to the West Indies, in addition thus far it shall go and no farther; por would any to the East Indies and the Mediterranean, under bond which could be entered into be an effectual certain restrictions. So that they were about to security for our peace. admit the right of the merchants to do the thing. He was surprised to hear the complaints of It was necessary therefore to inquire, whether this the gentleman last up, with respect to attribuwas the practice of nations.

ting improper motives to gentlemen, since he beIt was said that there was no law to prevent lieved that gentleman had himself been as reprearming; yet the President had forbidden the hensible in this respect as any other. Indeed, this arming of merchant vessels, except in certain very day he had spoken of the French coming cases, and he should not be willing to believe that up to our wharves, and intimated certain persons he would do what he had no right to do. And would be ready to receive them. He thought the surely no gentleman would contend that the Pre- admonition came ill from one who had been twice sident had the power to do, or not to do, accord- obliged to recant what he had said in this way. ing to his will. It was his business to execute the Mr. N. concluded with hoping the amendment law, and not to make it. He believed there had would be rejected; nor did he wish the resolubeen no hesitation, since the passing of the law tion to be agreed to without it, since he believed in 1794, in believing that vessels arming in the if it passed that House, it would not pass the ports of the United States were doing so with an Senate, and if any law passed on the subject, he intent to commit hostility. To suppose the con- I wished it to be so expressed as to do away the JUNE, 1797.]

Defensive Measures.

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supposition that the right in merchants to arm into, our coasting trade would be ruined. Was was acknowledged.

it then expected that French privateers would Mr. SwanWick said, that as the question was come and take our coasting vessels? If so, were to insert the words West Indies in the resolution, our coasters to be armed ? This he could hardly it might not be amiss to make a few observations suppose, as no transportation could support the on that trade. Much had been said about ihe re-expense of such a measure, and if not, what bestrictions which should be laid on vessels going came of the argument on this ground? out, that they should carry no contraband articles Mr. S. concluded by saying, he had shown or English or French property, and that therefore that a regulation of the kind proposed could not they could not be legally stopped; but, he asked, effect its object, that our vessels would not be under what regulation vessels were to be put on able to cope with the force they would meet their return? What documents could a vessel with, and that it would lead tu war. He bebring from any port in the West Indies ? Every lieved we must determine upon one of two things, person who was acquainted with the West India viz: either to continue our trade, as at present, trade knew that it was a continued source of dis- by means of insurance, or give it up altogether. trust, lest the French or English should export And this might be left to regulate itself; because, their property under cover of American property; whilst the profits arising from it were sufficient to and, in either case, where the fact appeared, ves- make it worth the aitention of merchants, it sels were looked upon as good prizes. This col-would be carried on; when it was not, it would lusion, he said, had been carried on in a variety be declined. of ways, some of which he explained. He knew Mr. Potter hoped the amendment would preof no method by which this could be prevented, vail, and that we should soon have the question, and still he believed more vessels were taken as he thought there had been more than enough coming from than going to the West Indies. Mr. said upon it. He was afraid no question would S. saw no advantages from arming, because, he hereafter come up, but gentlemen would think believed, we should not only lose our vessels, but it necessary to tell them all they knew about the also the arms on board; and these vessels would law of nations, &c. Many gentlemen had comprobably be made use of as privateers against our plained of long speeches and personalities, and own trade.

immediately made still longer, and been more But why, said Mr. S., is so much said about the personal. He could not say whether these long French in this debate? This arming, he said, speeches were made to display members' own would operate principally against Great Britain, vanity, or from their opinion of the ignorance of as a greater number of our vessels in the West the House. Indies were taken by the British than by the Mr. Harper took notice of what bad fallen French, because we had much more valuable from Mr. Swanwick on the subject of French trade with the French, Spanish, and Dutch and British spoliations. On a former occasion Islands, than with the British. France would he had said that the depredations of the British rather be pleased than offended at our determina- were equal to those of the French; but now he tion to protect our trade, because the want of that told them they were much greater. Mr. H. said, protection had been one of their causes of com- he then called upon him for his proof, and he plaint; and they would know that in a fortnight referred him to the insurance offices. He had after we sent our armed vessels to sea they would accordingly applied to them; and though he had be fighting with the British. So that this mea- not yet got his information complete, such as it sure would be like a two-edged sword, and cut a was, he would lay it before the committee. contrary way from that which its movers and From the Insurance Company of Pennsylvania, supporiers intended.

he found that since the 1st of January the French It was asked huw long we should submit to the had taken four ships, five brigs, and ihree schoondegradation of our vessels being convoyed by the ers, insured in that office, and the British only armed ships of Great Britain ? He would answer, two brigs in the same time. From the North that these convoys were confined to their own America Insurance his account was less complete, ports, and did not extend to the French, Dutch, as it went back to the beginning of 1796, and or Spanish ports. If the French had a sufficient ended with the end of it, when the spoliations of force in thai quarter, they might also convoy our the French were not so great as they have been vessels from thence.

since. The total amount of British captures durWhen he spoke before on this question, he said ing that period was $99,274—of French, $271,000. the expense of this measure was of itself a suffi- But he believed, if the account was brought up cient objection to it; when it was answered that to the present date, the French spoliations would this was no objection, because if merchants did be ten times the amount of the British. But of not find their account in it, they were not ob- this he should be more certain to-morrow, as he liged to go into the measure. But it was not was promised a statement of them at that time. only on this account that he objected to the plan, Mr. S. Smith said, if he understood the obserbut because it would give rise to collusions of the vations of the gentleman from Pennsylvania, it most dangerous kinds, and all regulations which referred to captures of fair and honorable trade, could be ihought of would be insufficient to pre- and not to those made of vessels of the United vent them.

States engaged in illicit intercourse. If, when the It had been said, if this measure was not gone gentleman obtains his information from the insu

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Defensive Measures.

[JUNE, 1797.

rance offices, he will get them to state to what the Havannah, whereas he knew that thirty or place vessels which were taken were bound, and forty vessels which trade between Rhode Island with what they were laden, the committee could and the Havannah had arrived safe. They had be able to understand what they were about. been searched, but, after examination, all of them Philadelphia, he said, was particularly situated in had been dismissed. this respect. One of the most respectable houses Mr. S. Smith said Martinique was considered in the city was one upon whom Mr. Whiggles- as a rebel_port by Victor Hugues. It was true worth, the British agent, drew all his bills for that Port Royal was bravely defended by French produce, carried for the use of the British Gov- troops, but the island itself was given up to the ernment. This gave them an advantage over British without resistance. But suppose that other parts of the Union, and hence it was that island was taken fairly, they were cautioned there were more depredations committed by the against trading there, and it would afterwards French upon vessels from Philadelphia inan from become a matter for discussion between the two any other port; but much of this trade was ille-Governments; and if it ought not to be considered gal, as it was carried on to ports where there as a rebel port, he trusted we should get redress were only a few British troops, and which were for the property which had been taken in going deemed by the French rebel ports. It was on there. The property of vessels bound to the rethis account that he had twice proposed a resolu- gular ports of Great Britain, Victor Hugues tion to the House, but had not able to pass it, to caused to be sold, and the amount placed in the get a particular account of vessels taken, in going treasury. to the West Indies, since the 1st of October, 1796. Mr. Champlin again interrupted Mr. S. to say, This account from the insurance offices, he said, that property thus taken was sold for one-tenth of was not a fair one. Many vessels, he said, were its value, and the small sum of money for which captured, taken into British ports, and, after being it was sold was placed in their treasury-so that put to great loss and inconvenience, released the whole value was detained from the owner. These did not come within the view of the insu- Mr. S. Smith acknowledged that this was true. rance office, though they were, probably, obliged The goods were sold at vendue (perhaps unfairly) to sell their cargoes at fifty per cent. under their for what they would fetch. Mr. Š. here mentioned value. Therefore, any account which could be the case of a ship of his taken by Victor Hugues, got from insurance offices could not be relied which had been misrepresented to his disadvanupon.

tage. It was the ship Jane, chartered by him, the Mr. S. said, he had this morning received let- supercargo of which was cruelly treated, and ters from different captains in his employ to and placed in prison, from the idea that the vessel from French ports, who had been carried into belonged to a Scotch merchant in Baltimore, of British ports, and obliged to sell their cargoes at the same name with his supercargo; but, on the a price by which he would lose fifty per cent. mistake being cleared up, and finding on the trial He learnt that the privateers state their orders to that the vessel belonged to a real American, who be, to take and carry into British ports all vessels was in the habit of trading to French ports, and bound to and from French ports. They state that she was bound to Martinique, and not to Guathat nine American vessels were taken in this daloupe, she was released. This account of the way, and carried into Cape Nichola Mole, and transaction was at the time fairly represented in afterwards sent to Jamaica. These, he said, never the American Daily Advertiser, but, from some came before an insurance office, because they cause or other, had got represented io his disadwere excepted against in the policy of insurance. vantage in other papers. He apologised to the

The gentleman from Massachusetts had said, committee for having troubled them with this why did not the merchants meet, and express their fact; but, as it had been alluded to by several wishes on the subject. The merchants in Phila- gentlemen in the course of the debate, he thought delphia, Mr. S. observed, consisted of English, it necessary in his justification to state it. French, and American, and so different were Mr. Brooks said the committee had long been their feelings, that were they to meet, they proba- amused with matters no way connected with the bly would not agree to any declaration which subject under discussion. He should confine himcould be formed.

self to it. That an individual had a right to arm Mr. S. read the proclamation of Victor Hugues, his vessel for self-defence, was very clear. It was wherein he declares certain ports of the West In- the practice not only of this, but of every other dies in a state of rebellion, and forbids trading to nation. The next consideration was, whether it them. He thought this provision just, and if per- was expedient at this time to go into the measure. sons continued to trade to these ports, after ihis Gentlemen had talked about what had been done notice, they must take the consequence.

on a former occasion, when another nation capMr. Champlin interrupted Mr. Smith to in- tured our vessels, which he thought had nothing quire whether Martinique was included in the re- to do with the present question. Heretofore our bel ports, because it had been taken by the British merchant vessels had been captured by vessels after a vigorous resistance. Though, he said, he of considerable force; but of late the principal was no merchant, his friends were engaged in depredations committed upon our commerce were commerce, and from them he had some knowl- the acts of small vessels without authority. He edge on that subject. The gentleman from Penn- thought it was therefore a question with the comsylvania had stated our commerce was stopped 10 mittee, whether they could not so modify the re

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