FURTHER ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRIVATE ARMED VESSELS.
COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEBRUARY 19, 1814.
To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled, the memorial of the subscribers, merchants and ship owners, of the city of Baltimore, most respectfully represents:
That, in consequence of the strict blockade of the several great inlets to the several ports and harbors of the United States, the private armed service has been much discouraged of late, from the great difficulty of bringing into port the property of the enemy captured on the high seas. That sea faring men having, in this state of things, but inconsiderable inducements to enter on board private vessels of war, are daily becoming more unwilling to adventure in said service, as the prospect of any remuneration for their toils and hardships is thus rendered more distant and precarious. That your memorialists are sincerely anxious to carry on the war with unabated vigor, by supporting the private armed service, with considerable means and resources; and if such inducements should be held out by the Government to our seamen as will offer a prospect of probable compensation to them for their exposure, are ready to give the best pledge of their sincerity by largely embarking in enterprises against the trade of the enemy. That it is most obvious that private cruises must prove in the end detrimental to the public interests, while file sole object of those concerned is to send in for adjudication the property which they capture; as the very frequent recapture of prizes must, by degrees, throw a great portion of our best seamen into the hands of the enemy, and thus waste and dissipate the means of active annoyance. That your memorialists are deeply impressed with the belief that the most effectual means of injury to the enemy's trade, which can now be adopted, without impairing our own strength, by the unnecessary exposure of our seamen to capture, would be, by the destruction at sea, of British merchant ships, which at once would deprive them of the benefit they now derive from the superiority in strength and number of their ships of war; and that such a system, if vigorously prosecuted, would soon teach them that even an inferior naval power can inflict the deepest wounds on that part in which they are most sensible. But it can scarcely be expected that private adventurers will sacrifice to such an object all prospects of benefit, derived from capture, and expose themselves to the certain loss of an unprofitable cruise.
They would therefore respectfully submit if to the wisdom of Congress whether a provision, by law, for an adequate compensation to the owners, officers, and crews, of private armed vessels, for every ton of shipping belonging to the enemy which they shall destroy on the high seas, will not have the effect of preventing the evils they apprehend, of encouraging seamen to enter the service, and of more effectually harassing the enemy, than any system of warfare hitherto adopted. If such a provision should be made, your memorialists will be ready to enter largely into the private armed service, and would sanguinely calculate on the increased spirit of our seamen and the enlarged enterprise of our merchants.
GEORGE P. STEVENSON, and others.
Baltimore, February 4th, 1814.