14th Congress.] 

No. 139.

[1st Session.



Treasury Department, February 15, 1816.


In the communications which have been made to Congress, relative to the operations of the American squadron in the Mediterranean, it appears that the property captured as prize from the Dey and regency of Algiers was restored on the conclusion of the peace with that Power. The restoration of the prize property being effected for the purposes of the Government, an equivalent became due to the captors; which has been fixed by their agent, and the Secretary of the Navy, at the sum of one hundred thousand dollars.

By the desire, therefore, of the Secretary of the Navy, and with the approbation of the President, I have the honor to submit to the Committee of Ways and Means a request that an item for appropriating one hundred thousand dollars may be included in the general appropriation bill, now preparing, to satisfy the claim of the captors.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant,


The Hon. Wm. Lowndes, Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means.


Navy Department, March 1, 1816.


I have the honor to enclose to you the copy of a communication from Littleton W. Tazewell, Esq. agent for the officers and men of the United States squadron upon the late service in the Mediterranean, in which are comprised the reasons for admitting the claims of the captors to be equivalent to the one-half of the value of property captured, and which is submitted for your information upon the subject.

I have the honor, &c.


Hon. A. J. Dallas, Secretary of the Treasury.

Georgetown, February 1, 1816.


As the agent of the officers and crews of the several ships and vessels of the United States, composing the first Mediterranean squadron, lately under the command of Commodore Decatur, it becomes my duty to ask of the Government, for and in behalf of my constituents, a fair and, just equivalent for the interest of the captors in the Algerine property, captured by that squadron during the late war with the Dey and regency of Algiers, and afterwards restored to that Power by the officers of the United States, upon the conclusion of peace between the two nations. In making this application. I do not consider that I solicit of the Government any favor or benevolence, but the performance of a mere act of justice, required by existing laws, and in exact conformity with its already settled practice in previous similar cases. Hence, sir, I address myself rather to the President, through you, than to Congress. For if I am informed correctly of the arrangement of the different departments of our Government, it belongs to the Legislature to prescribe the rule, but to the Executive only to apply and carry the rule so prescribed into effect; and should any funds be required for the attainment of this object, although Congress alone can furnish them, yet the application for such funds is to be made to that body, not by the individual for whose payment they are designed, but by that department of the Executive charged with the duty of satisfying the public engagements. If, therefore, the President shall be satisfied that the claim which I prefer is of the character I have stated, it is not for me to address myself to any other branch of the Government in relation thereto.

In order to establish the proposition, that this claim must be regarded as one founded upon existing laws, I have only to refer you to the 5th section of the act of Congress, passed on the 23d of April, 1800, entitled, "an act for the better government of the navy of the United States." Within the spirit of the provisions of this statute none, I believe, will doubt that the claim I exhibit is embraced; and but little question, I think, can exist, that the very letter of the law also very strongly protects it. But if doubts arise upon this latter subject, they will readily be removed by reflecting that it is only the act of the Government itself which has prevented from being done that which the literal terms of this statute may seem to require; and surely it ought not to be Said, that the Government have a right to require evidence which the Government itself has rendered it impossible to obtain, and this to establish a fact admitted by the Government to be true.

The settled practice of the Government also, in previous similar cases, abundantly proves, that its own interpretation of this statute is such as I have contended for. The case of the ships of the Emperor Of Morocco, captured by Captains Rodgers and Bainbridge in 1803, and restored to that monarch by the captors, before any judicial adjudication of the question of prize was, or could have been had, is one which, in its principles, it would be difficult, 1 think, to distinguish from that which I present. But in that case, the captors were compensated by the Government for their interests in the vessels captured, and the Executive made application to the Legislature, to enable the satisfaction of this legal demand. The act of Congress upon this subject you will find in the seventh volume of the laws of the United States, page 85.

As to the amount of the claim which I prefer, as soon as its principles are admitted, I will proceed to adjust it with you in any mode you choose to point out. At present, I will only remark, that I feel no disposition to ask of the Government more than I believe they ought to allow; and as from every information I have been enabled to obtain, the property captured was worth at least two hundred thousand dollars, I shall be disposed to rate it at that sum; if, upon inquiry, you also shall be satisfied that this estimate is not too high, and as I admit that the capturing squadron was of superior force, my constituents will, of course, be entitled to only one moiety of this sum. If, therefore, the President shall be satisfied that the claim which I prefer is correct in its principles, and after making every necessary inquiry you shall be convinced that the extent of that claim is not extravagantly estimated by me at one hundred thousand dollars, I will consent to this sum being taken as its amount, without resorting to any other mode of adjustment; should you differ with me, however, upon this question of "quantum" I will, with pleasure, accede to any other mode of settling it which you shall suggest.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant,


To the Honorable the Secretary of the Navy.