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[226] prizes into United States ports. These facts formed the basis of demands made upon the United States by the British plenipotentiary. The demands had reference, not to the accidental evasion of a municipal law of the United States by a particular ship, but to a systematic disregard of international law upon some of the most important points of neutral obligation.

To these demands Jefferson, then Secretary of State under President Washington, thus replied on September 3, 1793:

We are bound by our treaties with three of the belligerent nations, by all the means in our power, to protect and defend their vessels and effects in our ports or waters, or on the seas near our shores, and to recover and restore the same to the right owners when taken from them. If all the means in our power are used, and fail in this effort, we are not bound by our treaties with those nations to make compensation. Though we have no similar treaty with Great Britain, it was the opinion of the President that we should use toward that nation the same rule which, under this article, was to govern us with other nations, and even to extend it to the captures made on the high-seas and brought into our ports, if done by vessels which had been armed within them.

It will be observed that the justice of restitution, or compensation, for captures made on the high seas and brought into our ports, is only admitted by President Washington upon one condition, which is expressed in these words: ‘If done by vessels which had been armed within them.’ The terms of the contract which the government of the United States endeavored to make at the shipyards of England were for the delivery of the ships of war ‘to be finished complete, with guns and everything appertaining.’ The contract was not taken, as too little time was allowed for its execution. But if entered into and executed, it would have been a direct violation of international law.

In the instance of our cruisers built in the ports of England, it will be observed that they went to sea without arms or warlike stores, and at other ports than those of Great Britain they were converted into ships of war and put into commission by the authority of the Confederate government. The government of the United States asserted that they were built in the ports of Great Britain, and thereby her duty of neutrality was violated, and the government made responsible for the damages sustained by private citizens of the United States in consequence of her captures on the seas. To this declaration of Adams, Earl Russell (he had been made an earl) replied on September 14, 1863, thus:

When the United States Government assumes to hold the Government of Great Britain responsible for the captures made by vessels which may be fitted out as vessels of war in a foreign port, because such vessels were originally built in a British port, I have to observe that such pretentions are entirely at variance

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