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lect ? He could never consent to such a deduc- Senate with another extract from the report of tion from such premises.
Mr. Livingston, from which he had before read “ But, Mr. President, said Mr. W., there is In speaking of the amount which should be apanother view of this subject, placed upon this propriated, Mr. Livingston says: basis, which renders this bill of trifling impor “The only remaining inquiry is the amount ; tance in the comparison. If the failure to and on this point the committee have had some collect these claims has created the liability to difficulty. Two modes of measuring the compay them, that liability goes to the extent of pensation suggested themselves : the claims proved, and the interest upon them, 6.1. The actual loss sustained by the petinot to a partial, and perhaps trifling, dividend. tioners. Who, then, would undertake to say what “52. The value of the advantages received, as amount of claims might not be proved during the consideration, by the United States. the state of things he had described, from the 66. The first is the one demanded by strict breaking out of the war between France and justice; and is the only one that satisfies the England, in 1793, to the execution of the treaty, word used by the constitution, which requires in 1800 ? For a great portion of the period, just compensation, which cannot be said to have the municipal regulations of France required been made when any thing less than the full the captured cargoes to be not confiscated, but value is given. But there were difficulties which paid for at the market value at the port to appeared insurmountable, to the adoption of which the vessel was destined. Still the cap- this rule at the present day, arising from the ture would be proved, the value of the cargo multiplicity of the claims, the nature of the deascertained, before the commission which the predations which occasioned them, the loss of bill proposes to establish; and who would documents, either by the lapse of time, or the adduce the proof that the same cargo was paid wilful destruction of them by the depredators, for by the French government ?
The committee, therefore, could not undertake “This principle, however, Mr. W. said, went to provide a specific relief for each of the petimuch further than the whole subject of the old tioners. But they have recommended the instiFrench claims. It extended to all claims for tution of a board, to enter into the investigation, spoliations upon our commerce, since the exist- and apportion a sum which the committee have ence of the government, which we had failed to recommended to be appropriated, pro rata, collect. Who could say where the liability among the several claimants. would end ? In how many cases had claims of 16. The committee could not believe that the this character been settled by treaty, what had amount of compensation to the sufferers should been collected in each case, and what amount be calculated by the advantages secured to the remained unpaid, after the release of the foreign United States, because it was not, according to government ? He had made an unsuccessful their ideas, the true measure. If the property effort to answer these inquiries, so far as the of an individual be taken for public use, and the files of the state department would furnish the government miscalculate, and find that the obinformation, as he had found that it could only ject to which they have applied it has been be collected by an examination of each indivi- injurious rather than beneficial, the value of the dual claim; and this would impose a labor upon property is still due to the owner, who ought the department of an unreasonable character, not to suffer for the false speculations which and would occupy more time than remained to have been made. A turnpike or canal may be furnish the information for his use upon the pre- very unproductive; but the owner of the land sent occasion. He had, however, been favored which has been taken for its construction is not by the Secretary of State with the amounts al- the less entitled to its value. On the other lowed by the commissioners, the amounts paid, hand, he can have no manner of right to more and the rate of pay upon the principal, in two than the value of his property, be the object to recent cases, the Florida treaty, and the treaty which it has been applied ever so beneficial.' with Denmark. In the former instance, the “Here, Mr. W. said, were two proposed payment was ninety-one and two thirds per grounds of estimating the extent of the liability centum upon the principal, while in the latter it of the government to the claimants; and that was but thirty-one and one eighth per centum. which graduated it by the value received by the Assumt that these two cases are the maximum government was distinctly rejected, while that and minimum of all the cases where releases making the amount of the claims the measure have been given for partial payments; and of liability, was as distinctly asserted to be the he begged the Senate to reflect upon the true and just standard. He hoped he had shown, amounts unpaid which might be called from the to the satisfaction of the Senate, that the former national treasury, if the principle were once ad- rule of value received by the government would mitted that a failure to collect creates a liability allow the claimants nothing at all, while he was
compelled to say that, upon the broad principle “ That in his assumption that a liability of that a failure to collect creates a liability to pay, this sort must go to the whole amount of the he could not controvert the correctness of the claims, he only took the ground contended for conclusion that the liability must be commenby the friends of this bill, he would trouble the surate with the claim. He could controvert, he
thought, successfully, the principle, but he could law in determining what were and what were not the measure of damages when the principle not illegal captures, during the time that they was conceded. He would here conclude his re- were held to have no force, and when our citizens marks upon the points he had noticed, by the were authorized by law to go upon the high seas, earnest declaration that he believed the passage regardless of their provisions, Mr. W. said, would of this bill would open more widely the doors seem to him to be an absurdity which the Senate of the public treasury than any legislation of would not legalize. He was fully aware that which he had any knowledge, or to which Con- the first section of the bill purported to provide gress had ever yielded its assent.
for valid claims to indemnity upon the French “ Mr. W. said he had a few observations to government, arising out of illegal captures, deoffer relative to the mode of legislation proposed, tentions, forcible seizures, illegal condemnations, and to the details of the bill, and he would trou- and confiscations;' but it could not be overble the Senate no further.
looked that illegal captures, condemnations, and " His first objection, under this head, was to confiscations, must relate entirely to the law the mode of legislation. If the government be which was to govern the adjudication; and if liable to pay these claims, the claimants are that law was a void treaty which the claimants citizens of the country, and Congress is as ac- were not bound to observe, and did not observe, cessible to them as to other claimants who have was it not more than possible that a capture, demands against the treasury. Why were they condemnation, or confiscation, might, by comnot permitted, individually, to apply to Congress pulsion, be adjudged illegal under the rule fixed to establish their respective claims, as other by the bill, while that same capture, condemnaclaimants were bound to do, and to receive such tion, or confiscation, was strictly legal under the relief, in each case, as Congress, in its wisdom, laws which governed the commerce of the claim. should see fit to grant ? Why were these claims, ant when the capture was made ? He must say more than others, grouped together, and at- that it appeared clear to his mind that the rule tempted to be made a matter of national impor- of adjudication upon the validity of claims of this tance ? Why was a commission to be established description, should, in all cases, be the same rule to ascertain their validity, a duty in ordinary which governed the commerce out of which the cases discharged by Congress itself ? Were the claims have arisen. Senate sure that much of the importance given His second objection, Mr. W. said, was made to these claims had not proceeded from this as- more as a wish that a record of the intentions sociation, and from the formidable amount thus of the present Congress should be preserved presented at one view? Would any gentleman upon the face of the bill, than from any idea that be able to convince himself that, acting upon a the provision suggesteď would afford the least single claim in this immense mass, he should protection to the public treasury. Every day's have given it his favorable consideration ? For legislation showed the futility of the insertion his part, he considered the mode of legislation in an act of Congress of a declaration that the unusual and objectionable. His principal ob- | appropriation made should be in full of a claim; jections to the details were, that the second and in this, as in other like cases, should this section of the bill prescribed the rules which bill pass, he did not expect that it would be, should govern the commission in deciding upon in practice, any thing more than an instalment the claims, among which the former treaties upon the claims which would be sustained before between the United States and France' were the commission. The files of the state departenumerated ; and that the bill contained no de- ment would contain the record evidence of the claration that the payments made under it were balance, with the admission of the government, in full of the claims, or that the respective claim- in the passage of this bill, that an equal liability ants should execute a release, as a condition of remained to pay that balance, whatever it might receiving their dividends.
be. Even a release from the respective claimants " The first objection was predicated upon the he should consider as likely to have no other fact that the bill covered the whole period from effect than to change their future applications the making of the treaties of 1778, to that of from a demand of legal right, which they now the 30th September, 1800, and made the former assume to have, to one of equity and favor; and treaties the rule of adjudication, when Congress, he was yet to see that the latter would not be on the 7th July, 1798, by a deliberate legislative as successful as the former. He must give his act, declared those treaties void, and no longer vote against the bill, whether modified in that binding upon the United States or their citizens. particular or not, and he should do so under the It is a fact abundantly proved by the documents, most full and clear conviction, that it was a prothat a large portion of the claims now to be paid, position fraught with greater dangers to the arose within the period last alluded to; and that public treasury, than any law which had ever treaties declared to be void should be made the yet received the assent of Congress."
“Another objection, sir, has been urged against these claims, well calculated to diminish the favor with which they might otherwise be received,
and which is without any substantial foundation CHAPTER CXIX.
in fact. It is, that a great portion of them has
been bought up, as a matter of speculation, and FRENCH SPOLIATIONS—MR. WEBSTER'S SPEECH. it is now holden by these purchasers. It has
even been said, I think, on the floor of the Se“The question, sir, involved in this case, is es- nate, that nine tenths, or ninety hundredths, of sentially a judicial question. It is not a question all the claims are owned by speculators. of public policy, but a question of private right; 6 Such unfounded statements are not only a question between the government and the pe- wholly unjust towards these petitioners themtitioners: and, as the government is to be judge selves, but they do great mischief to other interin its own case, it would seem to be the duty ests. I have observed that a French gentleman of its members to examine the subject with the of distinction, formerly a resident in this country, most scrupulous good faith, and the most soli- is represented in the public newspapers as having citous desire to do justice.
declined the offer of a seat in the French ad“ There is a propriety in commencing the ex- ministration, on the ground that he could not amination of these claims in the Senate, because support the American treaty; and he could not it was the Senate which, by its amendment of support the treaty because he had learned, or the treaty of 1800, and its subsequent ratifica- heard, while in America, that the claims were no tion of that treaty, and its recognition of the longer the property of the original sufferers, but declaration of the French government, effectually had passed into unworthy hands. If any such released the claims as against France, and for thing has been learned in the United States, it ever cut off the petitioners from all hopes of re- has been learned from sources entirely incorrect. dress from that quarter. The claims, as claims The general fact is not so; and this prejudice, against our own government, have their founda- thus operating on a great national interest -an tion in these acts of the Senate itself; and it interest in regard to which we are in danger of may certainly be expected that the Senate will being seriously embroiled with a foreign stateconsider the effects of its own proceedings, on was created, doubtless, by the same incorrect private rights and private interests, with that and unfounded assertions which have been made candor and justice which belong to its high char- relative to this other class of claims. acter.
"In regard to both classes, and to all classes “ It ought not to be objected to these peti- of claims of American citizens on foreign governtioners, that their claim is old, or that they are ments, the statement is at variance with the now reviving any thing which has heretofore facts. Those who make it have no proof of it. been abandoned. There has been no delay which On the contrary, incontrovertible evidence exis not reasonably accounted for. The treaty by ists of the truth of the very reverse of this statewhich the claimants say their claims on France ment. The claims against France, since 1800, for these captures and confiscations were released are now in the course of adjudication. They are was concluded in 1800. They immediately ap- all, or very nearly all, presented to the proper plied to Congress for indemnity, as will be seen tribunal. Proofs accompany them, and the by the report made in 1802, in the House of rules of the tribunal require that, in each case, Representatives, by a committee of which a dis- the true ownership should be fully and exactly tinguished member from Virginia, not now living set out, on oath; and be proved by the papers, [Mr. Giles), was chairman.
vouchers, and other evidence. Now, sir, if any “In 1807, on the petition of sundry merchants man is acquainted, or will make himself acand others, citizens of Charleston, in South Ca- quainted, with the proceedings of this tribunal, rolina, a committee of the House of Representa- so far as to see who are the parties claiming tives, of which Mr. Marion, of that State, was the indemnity, he will see the absolute and chairman, made a report, declaring that the enormous error of those who represent these committee was of opinion that the government claims to be owned, in great part, by specuof the United States was bound to indemnify lators. the claimants. But at this time our affairs with • The truth is, sir, that these claims, as well the European powers at war had become exceed- those since 1800 as before, are owned and posingly embarrassed ; our government had felt sessed by the original sufferers, with such itself compelled to withdraw our commerce from changes only as happen in regard to all other the ocean; and it was not until after the con- property. The original owner of ship and cargo; clusion of the war of 1812, and after the general his representative, where such owner is dead; pacification of Europe, that'a suitable opportunity underwriters who have paid losses on account occurred of presenting the subject again to the of captures and confiscations; and creditors of serious consideration of Congress. From that insolvents and bankrupts who were interested time the petitioners have been constantly before in the claims—these are the descriptions of us, and the period has at length arrived proper persons who, in all these cases, own vastly the for a final decision of their case.
larger portion of the claims. This is true of
the claims on Spain, as is most manifest from as to the degree of responsibility to the Amerithe proceedings of the commissioners under can sufferers from French spoliations, which the the Spanish treaty. It is true of the claims convention of 1800 extinguished, on the part of on France arising since 1800, as is equally France, or devolved on the United States, the manifest by the proceedings of the commis- Senate itself being most competent to decide sioners now sitting; and it is equally true of that question. Under this impression, he hopes
the claims which are the subject this dis- that he will have sufficiently conformed to the , cussion, and provided for in this bill. In some purposes of the Senate, by a brief statement,
instances claims have been assigned from one prepared in a hurried moment, of what he unto another, in the settlement of family affairs. derstands to be the question. They have been transferred, in other instances, 6. The second article of the convention of to secure or to pay debts; they have been 1800 was in the following words: “ The ministransferred, sometimes, in the settlement of in- ters plenipotentiary of the two parties, not besurance accounts; and it is probable there are ing able to agree, at present, respecting the a few cases in which the necessities of the hold- treaty of alliance of the 6th of February, 1778, ers have compelled them to sell them. But the treaty of amity and commerce of the same nothing can be further from the truth than that date, and the convention of the 14th of Novemthey have been the general subjects of purchase ber, 1788, nor upon the indemnities mutually and sale, and that they are now holden mainly due or claimed, the parties will negotiate further by purchasers from the original owners. They on these subjects, at a convenient time; and have been compared to the unfunded debt. But until they may have agreed upon these points, that .consisted in scrip, of fixed amount, and the said treaties and convention shall have no which passed from hand to hand by delivery operation, and the relations of the two counThese claims cannot so pass from hand to hand. tries shall be regulated as follows." In each case, not only the value but the amount · When that convention was laid before the is uncertain. Whether there be any claim, is Senate, it gave its consent and advice that it in each case a matter for investigation and should be ratified, provided that the second artiproof; and so is the amount, when the justice of cle be expunged, and that the following article the claim itself is established. These circum- be added or inserted: “It is agreed that the stances are of themselves quite sufficient to pre- present convention shall be in force for the term vent the easy and frequent transfer of the claims of eight years from the time of the exchange of from hand to hand. They would lead us to the ratifications ;” and it was accordingly so expect that to happen which actually has hap- ratified by the President of the United States, pened; and that is, that the claims remain with on the 18th day of February, 1801. On the their original owners, and their legal heirs and 31st of July of the same year, it was ratified representatives, with such exceptions as I have by Bonaparte, First Consul of the French Realready mentioned. As to the portion of the public, who incorporated in the instrument of claims now owned by underwriters, it can hardly his ratification the following clause as part of be necessary to say that they stand on the same it: “The government of the United States, harequity and justice as if possessed and presented ing added to its ratification that the convention by the owners of ships and goods. There i should be in force for the space of eight years, no more universal maxim of law and justic and having omitted the second article, the govthroughout the civilized and commercial word, ernment of the French Republic consents to than that an underwriter, who has paid a loss accept, ratify, and confirm the above convention, on ships or merchandise to the owner, is entitled with the addition, importing that the conveni to whatever may be received from the property. tion shall be in force for the space of eight years, His right accrues by the very act of payment; ! and with the retrenchment of the second artiand if the property, or its proceeds, be after- cle: Provided, That, by this retrenchment, the wards recovered, in whole or in part, whether two states renounce the respective pretensions the recovery be from the sea, from captors, or which are the object of the said article." from the justice of foreign states, such recovery ** The French ratification being thus condiis for the benefit of the underwriter. Any at- tional, was, nevertheless, exchanged against that tempt, therefore, to prejudice these claims, on of the United States, at Paris, on the same 31st the ground that many of them belong to insur- of July. The President of the United States ance companies, or other underwriters, is at war considering it necessary again to submit the with the first principles of justice.
convention, in this state, to the Senate, on the “A short, but accurate, general view of the 19th day of December, 1801, it was resolved by history and character of these claims is pre- the Senate that they considered the said convensented in the report of the Secretary of State, tion as fully ratified, and returned it to the Pro on the 20th of May, 1826, in compliance with a sident for the usual promulgation. It was ac, resolution of the Senate. Allow me, sir, to read cordingly promulgated, and thereafter regarded the paragraphs:
as a valid and binding compact. The two con“The Secretary can hardly suppose it to tracting parties thus agreed, by the retrenchhave been the intention of the resolution to re- ment of the second article, mutually to renounce quire the expression of an argumentative opinion the respective pretensions which were the ob
ject of that article. The pretensions of the perty. They were just demands, and, as such, United States, to which allusion is thus made, they were property. The courts of law took arose out of the spoliations under color of French notice of them as property. They were capable authority, in contravention of law and existing of being devised, of being distributed among treaties. Those of France sprung from the treaty heirs and next of kin, and of being transferred of alliance of the 6th of February, 1778, the and assigned, like other legal and just debts. A treaty of amity and commerce of the same date, claim or demand for a ship unjustly seized and and the convention of the 14th of November, confiscated is property, as clearly as the ship 1788. Whatever obligations or indemnities, from itself. It may not be so valuable, or so certain; these sources, either party had a right to de- but it is as clear a right, and has been uniformly mand, were respectively waived and abandoned; so regarded by the courts of law. The papers and the consideration which induced one party show that American citizens had claims against to renounce his pretensions, was that of renun- the French government for six hundred and fifciation by the other party of his pretensions. teen vessels unlawfully seized and confiscated. What was the value of the obligations and in- If this were so, it is difficult to see how the govdemnities, so reciprocally renounced, oan only ernment of the United States can release these be matter of speculation. The amount of the claims for its own benefit, with any more proindemnities due to the citizens of the United priety than it could have applied the money to States was very large; and, on the other hand, its own use, if the French government had been the obligation was great (to specify no other ready to make compensation, in money, for the French pretensions), under which the United property thus illegally seized and confiscated; States were placed, in the eleventh article of the or how the government could appropriate to ittreaty of alliance of the 6th of February, 1778, self the just claims which the owners of these by which they were bound for ever to guarantee six hundred and fifteen vessels held against the from that time the then possessions of the wrong-doers, without making compen-ation, any Crown of France in America, as well as those more than it could appropriate to itself, without which it might' acquire by the future treaty of making compensation, six hundred and fifteen peace with Great Britain; all these possessions ships which had not been seized. I do not mean having been, it is believed, conquered at, or not to say that the rate of compensation should be long after, the exchauge of the ratifications of the same in both cases; I do not mean to say the convention of September, 1800, by the arms that a claim for a ship is of as much value as a cf Great Britain, from France.
ship; but I mean to say that both the one and 6. The fifth article of the amendments to the the other are property, and that government constitution provides: “Nor shall private pro- cannot, with justice, deprive a man of either, for perty be taken for public use, without just com- its own benefit, without making a fair compenpensation.” If the indemnities to which citi sation. zens of the United States were entitled for “It will be perceived at once, sir, that these French spoliations prior to the 30th of Septem- claims do not rest on the ground of any neglect ber, 1800, have been appropriated to absolve the or omission, on the part of the government of United States from the fulfilment of an obliga- the United States, in demanding satisfaction from tion which they had contracted, or from the France. That is not the ground. The governpayment of indemnities which they were bound ment of the United States, in that respect, perto make to France, the Senate is most compe- formed its full duty. It remonstrated against tent to determine how far such an appropriation these illegal seizures ; it insisted on redress; it is a public use of private property within the sent two special missions to France, charged exspirit of the constitution, and whether equitable pressly, among other duties, with the duty of considerations do not require some compensa- demanding indemnity. But France had her subtion to be made to the claimants. The Senate jects of complaint, also, against the government is also best able to estimate the probability of the United States, which she pressed with which existed of an ultimate recovery from equal carnestness and confidence, and which she France of the amount due for those indemnities, would neither postpone nor relinquish, except if they had not been renounced ; in making on the condition that the United States would which estimate, it will, no doubt, give just weight postpone or relinquish these claims. And to to the painful consideration that repeated and meet this condition, and restore harmony beurgent appeals have been, in vain, made to the tween the two nations, the United States did justice of France for satisfaction of flagrant agree, first to postpone, and afterwards to relinwrongs committed upon property of other citi- quish, these claims of its own citizens. In other zens of the United States, subsequent to the words, the government of the United States period of the 30th of September, 1800. bought off the claims of France against itself,
“Before the interference of our government by discharging claims of our own citizens against with these claims, they constituted just demands France. against the government of France. They were “This, sir, is the ground on which these citinot vague expectations of possible future in- zens think they have a claim for reasonable indemnity for injuries received, too uncertain to demnity against their own government. And be regarded as valuable, or be esteemed pro- now, sir, before proceeding to the disputed