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CABINET DISCUSSIONS.

[CHAP. VII. that reprisal was a serious matter, and ought to be preceded by a demand and refusal of satisfaction. It is generally considered to be an act of war, and never fails to produce it.

Even if it was a fit case for reprisal, the power of taking this course belonged to Congress, and not to the Executive. As to the injury done to the United States, they were the sole judges of that injury, and of the proper reparation. The course which the Executive had now taken was sufficient to justify it with Great Britain. They were therefore of opinion that the vessels captured by French cruisers on the high seas ought not to be returned by the United States.

Messrs. Hamilton and Knox were of a different opinion. They maintained that a neutral, permitting itself to be made an instrument of hostility, becomes a party in the war: that, in the case supposed, the United States would thus possess the means of annoyance, while they were protected from retaliation by a pretended neutrality.

It being thus inconsistent with neutrality for the United States to permit privateers to be fitted out in their ports, it would follow that they must remedy the injury which had been committed: that the wrong had been done before the government had the means of preventing it might be an excuse, but was no justification. It could have no force when the prizes were brought into the United States, and thus placed within their power and jurisdiction.

Although the commissions were valid as to the belligerent parties, they were not so as to the United States. For the violation of their rights they were entitled to reparation. There could be no indefeasible right to property obtained by a violation of the rights of the United States. These commissions, though void as to the United

1793.]

RELATIONS WITH FRANCE.

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States, yet being valid between the belligerents, the case was not proper for the decision of the courts, but to be settled by reasons of State, not rules of laws. It was the case in which the national sovereignty having been violated, to the injury of a third party, the nation is bound to demand reparation, that, in thus doing justice to another, it might do justice to itself.. On those grounds they thought restitution should be made.'

The President reserved for future consideration the question on which his Cabinet was thus divided; but as to the other points on which they were agreed, the Secretary of State was requested to communicate them both to the French and British Ministers, and also to address circulars to the State Executives, requiring their co-operation; and, for preventing a repetition of such violations of sovereignty, to use force, if necessary.

The letter written by Mr. Jefferson to the French Minister, on this occasion, was addressed to Mr. Ternant, and it contained all the complaints urged by the British Minister against acts of French citizens as violations of the neutrality of the United States, and also the opinion of the Attorney-General, that the seizure of the British ship Grange by the frigate within the capes of the Delaware was illegal. This letter was the next day delivered by Ternant to his successor Genet, who, in his reply, denied either the facts or the law relied on by the British Minister, except the capture of the Grange, as to which, acquiescing in the opinion of the Attorney-General, he had ordered her to be restored.

In a second letter from Mr. Jefferson, the rights and duties of the United States as a sovereign and a neutral nation are again insisted on, and Mr. Genet is told that they expect, as a reparation for their violated sovereignty, IV. Marshall, page 417.

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CORRESPONDENCE WITH GENET. [CHAP. VII.

that the vessels illegally equipped within their limits, would leave their ports.

This request, the envoy resists in a vehement and not very respectful tone. He persists in his own first construction of the treaties between the two nations, of the rights of France, and of the duties of neutrality. He urges that an obstruction to the arming of French vessels in the ports of the United States would expose them to inevitable ruin, which, he added, is certainly not the intention of the people of America. In more than one passage of his letter he contrasted the conduct of the American government with the generous sympathy of the American people.

In the same offensive style he had, some days before, demanded the release of two citizens of the United States, who had been arrested for offending against the laws, by enlisting under citizen Genet to cruise in the service of France.

We may now wonder at the temper and forbearance then exhibited by the government, and which could arise only from its determination to afford no sort of color to the suspicions beginning to prevail, that the administration was secretly unfriendly to the French Revolution. This forbearance was naturally interpreted by Genet into a conviction on the part of the Government that the people would not bear a more decided opposition to his course, bold and arrogant as it was. Public sentiment, as indicated by popular meetings, and by societies, modelled after the Jacobin clubs of Paris, was well calculated to confirm one of his sanguine temper in these impressions. He was thus emboldened to put himself in direct opposition to the American Government, and trusted to the known force of the popular will in the United States to ensure his 'eventual triumph.

1793.]

CORRESPONDENCE WITH GENET.

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It was not long before this strange state of things produced its natural results, and brought citizen Genet's diplomacy to a crisis.

An English letter-of-marque, the Little Sarah, had been captured by a French frigate, and sent into Philadelphia, where she was fitted out as a privateer, under the name of "La Petit Democrat," and manned partly by American citizens.

Governor Mifflin having learnt these facts, and also that the privateer was to sail the next day, sent his Secretary of State, Mr. Dallas, to Mr. Genet, to request him to detain the vessel until the return of the President, then on his journey from Virginia, and thus to relieve the Governor from the necessity of employing force.

To this application Genet returned a most intemperate reply, censuring the administration and its course; threatening to publish his correspondence by way of appealing from the Government to the people, and to leave the country. He peremptorily refused to interfere with the sailing of the privateer, which, he said, in defending the honor of her flag, would certainly repel force by force.

The Governor then ordered out one hundred and twenty militia, for the purpose of taking possession of "The Little Democrat," and communicated the facts to officers of the Federal Government. The next day the Secretary of State called on Genet, and endeavored to induce him to pledge his word that the vessel should not depart before the President's return. The envoy conducted himself in the same passionate and indecorous style as with Mr. Dallas. But after a while, becoming cooler, he entreated that no attempt should be made to take possession of the vessel by force, as such an attempt would be repelled by force. He said she was not yet VOL. I. -33

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CASE OF THE LITTLE DEMOCRAT." [CHAP. VII.

ready to sail, but would merely fall a little way down the river. On Mr. Jefferson's reporting this conversation to Governor Mifflin, and stating his belief that the vessel would not depart before the President's return, the Governor ordered the militia to be discharged; and he further consulted the officers of the Government as to the course he should pursue.

Here, too, the members of the Cabinet disagreed. Messrs. Hamilton and Knox thought a battery should be erected on Mud Island, to prevent the departure of the vessel, in case it should be attempted before the President's return. Mr. Jefferson1 not approving of this course, it was not adopted. The privateer then fell down the river, below Mud Island, as far as Chester.

The President reached Philadelphia on the eleventh of July, and called a meeting of his Cabinet the next day. It was then decided to request the answer of the Judges of the Supreme Court to a series of questions on the points of difference between the Government and the French Minister relative to the treaty with France, and in the mean time to detain such privateers as had been equipped by any of the belligerents within the United States. This decision was forthwith communicated to Mr. Genet; but, without regard to it, or to his implied consent that "The Little Democrat" would abide the determination of the Government, in the course of four or five days she proceeded on her cruise.

It was clear that the administration did not think it prudent to resort to coercive measures for the purpose of detaining "The Little Democrat ;" and though it may now seem more consistent with the dignity of the Government to have used the same means at Chester which had been first intended at Philadelphia for arrest1 The Attorney-General was then in Virginia.

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