A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents eBook

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DECEMBER 7, 1793.


UNITED STATES, December 5, 1793.

Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives

As the present situation of the several nations of Europe, and especially of those with which the United States have important relations, can not but render the state of things between them and us matter of interesting inquiry to the Legislature, and may indeed give rise to deliberations to which they alone are competent, I have thought it my duty to communicate to them certain correspondences which have taken place.

The representative and executive bodies of France have manifested generally a friendly attachment to this country; have given advantages to our commerce and navigation, and have made overtures for placing these advantages on permanent ground.  A decree, however, of the National Assembly subjecting vessels laden with provisions to be carried into their ports and making enemy goods lawful prize in the vessel of a friend, contrary to our treaty, though revoked at one time as to the United States, has been since extended to their vessels also, as has been recently stated to us.  Representations on this subject will be immediately given in charge to our minister there, and the result shall be communicated to the Legislature.

It is with extreme concern I have to inform you that the proceedings of the person whom they have unfortunately appointed their minister plenipotentiary here have breathed nothing of the friendly spirit of the nation which sent him.  Their tendency, on the contrary, has been to involve us in war abroad and discord and anarchy at home.  So far as his acts or those of his agents have threatened our immediate commitment in the war, or flagrant insult to the authority of the laws, their effect has been counteracted by the ordinary cognizance of the laws and by an exertion of the powers confided to me.  Where their danger was not imminent they have been borne with from sentiments of regard to his nation, from a sense of their friendship toward us, from a conviction that they would not suffer us to remain long exposed to the action of a person who has so little respected our mutual dispositions, and, I will add, from a reliance on the firmness of my fellow-citizens in their principles of peace and order.  In the meantime I have respected and pursued the stipulations of our treaties according to what I judged their true sense, and have withheld no act of friendship which their affairs have called for from us, and which justice to others left us free to perform.  I have gone farther.  Rather than employ force for the restitution of certain vessels which I deemed the United States bound to restore, I thought it more advisable to satisfy the parties by avowing it to be my opinion that if restitution were not made it would be incumbent on the United States to make compensation.  The papers now communicated will more particularly apprise you of these transactions.

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