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France: Decrees on Trade 1793-1810

Extract from the Resister of Arr�ts of the Committee of Public Safety of the 14th Nivose, 3rd year of the republic (3rd January, 1795.)

The Committee of Public Safety, considering that, by the twenty-third article of the treaty of commerce between France and the United States of America, bearing date on the 6th of February, 1778, it is agreed:

1. That the people of France and America may navigate reciprocally, in complete safety, with their vessels, and without exception as to the owners of the merchandise charged upon such vessels, or as to the ports from whence they come, and although the Power for which they may be destined be actually at war, or become afterwards the enemy of the one or the other contracting party; that they may equally navigate in full safety with their vessels and merchandise, and frequent the places, ports, and harbors of the enemies of both nations, or of either, and carry on trade, not only from the port of an enemy to that of a neutral Power, but also from different ports of the same enemy.

2. That free vessels shall make free goods, and that any thing shall be considered as free which shall be found on board the vessels of either contracting nation, although it belong, in whole or in part, to the enemies of either the one or the other; contraband always excepted.

3.� That the same liberty shall be extended to those who are found on board free vessels, although they be the enemies of either the one or the other contracting nation; and, in consequence, that such persons shall not be taken from such vessels, unless they be soldiers in the actual service of the enemy.

Considering that the crimes of England, having given to the war of despotism against liberty a character of injustice and atrocity without example in the annals of mankind, the National Convention found itself obliged, in using the right of reprisal, to decree, on the 9th of May, 1793, that vessels of war and cruisers of the republic might take and conduct into the ports of France such vessels of the neutral Powers as they should find charged, in whole or in part, with provisions belonging either to such Powers or the enemies of France.� Soon afterwards, however, and on the 1st July, 1793, the Convention restored in full vigor the dispositions of the treaty above mentioned of the 6th of February, 1778, but which were again revoked by a decree of the 27th of the same month, in respect to provisions and merchandises of neutral Powers, in such vessels, free.� In regard to which the French Government has not to reproach itself with having waited, to show itself just and loyal, that the cabinet of London might revoke, as it did a long time afterwards, the order given by it the preceding year to seize all neutral vessels carrying provisions or merchandises into France.

Considering that since, and notwithstanding the notoriety with which this cabinet continues to insult and violate the rights of neutral nations by causing their vessels, charged with merchandise, destined for the ports of France, to be seized, yet the National Convention has enjoined it, by the seventh article of the law of the 13th of this month, upon all officers, civil and military, strictly to observe, in all their dispositions, the treaties which unite France with the neutral Powers of the ancient continent, as likewise with the United States of America, declaring all articles of a contrary import in any other law to be absolutely null and void.

Fully, therefore, to carry into effect the aid law, according to its true intent and meaning, it is hereby ordered:

Art. 1. The Commission of Marine and of the Colonies shall notify, without delay, to all the commanders of armed vessels, divisions, and squadrons, the article above mentioned of the law of the 13th of this month; and, in consequence, that they are to consider the fifth article of the arr�t of the 25th Brumaire last, which authorized the seizure of merchandises belonging to an enemy on board neutral vessels, until such enemy shall have declared French property on board such vessels free, as now null and void.

Art. 2.� The merchandises called contraband, though belonging to a neutral Power, shall continue subject to seizure.

Art. 3.� All arms, instruments, and munitions of war of every kind, horses, and their equipage, and all kinds of merchandises, and other effects, destined for an enemy's port actually blockaded or besieged, shall be deemed contraband of war.



Placed on the Napoleon Series March 2003


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