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ty of peace, or from the effects of the present Europe
The complaints of Great Britain, in relation to the treaty of 1783, were confined to the legal impediments, thrown by the several states in the way of the recovery
of British debts. The late treaty provides adequate remedy on that subject; the United States are bound to make full and complete compensation for any losses arising from that source, and every ground of complaint on the part of Great Britain is removed.
Having thus done full justice to the other nation, America has a right to expect that equal attention shall be paid to her claims arising from infractions of the treaty of peace, viz. compensation for the negroes carried away by the British; restoration of the western posts, and indemnification for their detention.
On the subject of the first claim which has been objected to as groundless, I will observe, that I am not satisfied that the construction given by the British government to that article of the treaty, is justified even by the letter of the article. That construction rests on the supposition that slaves come under the general denomination of booty, and are alienated the moment they fall into the possession of an enemy, so that all those who were in the hands of the British when the treaty of peace was signed, must be considered as British, and not as American property, and are not included in the article. It will, however, appear, by recurring to Vattel when speaking of the right of Postliminium, that slaves cannot be considered as part of the booty which is alienated by the act of capture, and that they are to be ranked rather with real property, to the profits of which only the captors are entitled. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the construction given by America, is that which was understood by the parties at the time of making the treaty. The journals of Mr. Adams, quoted by a gentleman from Connecticut, (Mr. Coit,) prove this fully; for when he says, that the insertion of this article was
alone worth the journey of Mr. Laurens from London, can it be supposed that he would have laid so much stress on a clause, which, according to the new construction, now attempted to be given, means only that the British would commit no new act of hostilitywould not carry away slaves, at that time in possession of Americans ? Congress recognized that construction by adopting the resolution which has been already quoted, and which was introduced upon the motion of Mr. Alexander Hamilton; and it has not been denied that the British ministry, during Mr. Adams' embassy, also agreed to it.
But when our negociator had, for the sake of peace, waved that claim; when he had also abandoned the right which America had to demand an indemnification for the detention of the posts, although he had conceded the right of a similar nature, which Great Britain had for the detention of debts; when he had thus given up every thing which might be supposed to be of a doubtful nature, it might have been hoped that our last claim-a claim on which there was not, and there never had been any dispute--the western posts should have been restored according to the terms of the treaty of peace. Upon what ground the British insisted, and our negociator conceded, that this late restitution should be saddled with new conditions, which made no part of the original contract, I am at a loss to know. British traders are allowed, by the new treaty, to remain within the posts, without becoming citizens of the United States; and to carry on trade and commerce with the Indians living within our boundaries, without being subject to any control from our government. In vain is it said, that if that clause had not been inserted, we would have found it our interest to effect it by our own laws. Of this we are alone competent judges ; if that condition is harmless at present, it is not possible to foresee whether, under future circumstances, it will not prove highly injurious ; and whether harmless or not, it is not less a perma
nent and new condition imposed upon us.
But the fact is, that by the introduction of that clause, by obliging us to keep within our jurisdiction, as British subjects, the very men, who have been the instruments used by Great Britain to promote Indian wars on our frontiers ; by obliging us to suffer those men to continue their commerce with the Indians living in our territory, uncontrolled by those regulations, which we have thought necessary in order to restrain our own citizens in their intercourse with these tribes, Great Britain has preserved her full influence with the Indian nations. By a restoration of the posts under that condition, we have lost the greatest advantage that was expected from their possession, viz. future security against the Indians. In the same manner have the British preserved the commercial advantages, which result from the occupancy of those posts, by stipulating as a permanent condition, a free passage for their goods across our portages, without paying any duty.
Another article of the new treaty, which is connected with the provisions of the treaty of 1783, deserves consideration ; I mean what relates to the Mississippi. At the time when the navigation of that river to its mouth, was, by the treaty of peace, declared to be common to both nations, Great Britain communicated to America a right, which she held by virtue of the treaty of 1763, and as owner of the Floridas; but since that cession to the United States, England has ceded to Spain her claim on the Floridas, and does not own, at the present time, an inch of ground, either on the mouth or on any part of that river. Spain now stands in the place of Great Britain, and by virtue of the treaty of 1783, it is to Spain and America, and not to England and America that the navigation of the Mississippi is at present to be common. Yet, notwithstanding this change of circumstances, we have repeated that article of the former treaty in the late one, and have granted to Great Britain the additional privilege of using our ports on the eastern side of the river,
without which, as they own no land thereon, they could not have navigated it. Nor is this all. Upon a supposition that the Mississippi does not extend so far northward as to be intersected by a line drawn due west from the Lake of the Wood, or, in other words, upon a supposition that Great Britain has not a claim even to touch the Mississippi, we have agreed, not upon what will be the boundary line, but that we will hereafter negociate to settle that line. Thus leaving to future negociation what should have been finally settled by the treaty itself, in the same manner as all other differences were, is calculated for the sole purpose, either of laying the foundation of future disputes, or of recognizing a claim in Great Britain on the waters of the Mississippi, even if their boundary line leaves to the southward the sources of that river. Had not that been the intention of Great Britain, the line would have been settled at once by the treaty, according to either of the two only rational ways of doing it in conformity to the treaty of 1783, that is to say, by agreeing that the line should run from the northernmost sources of the Mississippi, either directly to the western extremity of the Lake of the Wood, or northwardly till it intersected the line to be drawn due west from that lake. But, by repeating the article of the treaty of 1783; by conceding the free use of our ports on the river, and by the insertion of the fourth article, we have admitted, that Great Britain, in all possible events, has still a right to navigate that river from its source to its mouth. What may be the future effects of these provisions, especially as they regard our intercourse with Spain, it is impossible at present to say; but although they can bring us no advantage, they may embroil us with that nation; and we have already felt the effect of it in our late treaty with Spain, since we were obliged, on account of that clause of the British treaty, to accept as a gift and a favor the navigation of that river which we had till then claimed as a right. The seventh article of the treaty is intended to ad
just those differences which arose from the effects of the present European war. On that article it
may also be observed, that whilst it provides a full compensation for the claims of the British, it is worded in such a manner, when speaking of the indemnification for spoliations committed on the American commerce, as will render it liable to a construction very unfavorable to our just claims on that ground. The commissioners, to be appointed by virtue of that article, are to take cognizance and to grant redress only in those cases where, by reason of irregular or illegal captures or condemnations, made under color of authority or commissions from the king of Great Britain, losses have been incurred, and where adequate compensation cannot now be actually obtained by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings. If Great Britain should insist that, since the signing of the treaty, they had, by admitting appeals to their superior courts, afforded a redress by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings; if those courts were to declare, that the captures, complained of, were neither illegal, nor made under color, but by virtue of authority or commissions from the king, and if that construction should prevail with the commissioners; the indemnification which our plundered merchants would actually receive, in consequence of the provisions of this article, would fall very short of their expectations and of their just claims. Yet this article, considering the relative situation of the two countries, at the time when the negociation took place, is as much as could reasonably have been expected by America. When a weak nation has to contend with a powerful one, it is gaining a great deal, if the national honor is saved even by the shadow of an indemnification, and by an apparent concession on the part of the aggressor; and however objectionable the article might appear at first view, I am, on the whole, satisfied with it.
The remaining provisions of the treaty have no connexion with past differences; they make no part of