APPLICATION TO ABOLISH PRIVATEERING IN TIME OF WAR.
COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JANUARY 4, 1820
Mr. Lowndes made the following report:
The Committee of Foreign Relations, to whom have been referred two memorials from citizens of the State of Ohio,
relating to the practice of privateering, beg leave respectfully to report:
That the language of the memorialists is such as to leave the extent in which they deem it reasonable to expect a mitigation in the laws of maritime warfare in some doubt. They are considered by the committee as recommending such a change in these laws as shall exempt the property of individuals from capture, either by public or private ships of war, at least when it does not consist of contraband articles, and is not destined to a blockaded port. The general benevolence which is expressed, as well as the opinion of Doctor Franklin which is referred to by the memorialists, seem to prove that it is their wish that the property which subserves no purpose of war should be as safe upon the sea as upon the land; not that it should be secured from private cruisers, and be left exposed to public 5hips, which in the service of some of the European powers are much more numerous than the others, and whose pursuit of plunder is often quite as active and unsparing. It cannot, indeed, be presumed that the memorialists should wish a change in maritime law, which would produce very little diminution in the dangers of our commerce in a conflict with any considerable naval power, while it would Wrest from our hands what we have hitherto considered as one of our principal weapons of annoyance. It is the security of fair and harmless commerce from all attack which the memorialists most desire. It is the introduction of a system which shall confine the immediate injuries of war to those whose sex, and age, and occupation, do not unfit them for the struggle. If these are the wishes of the memorialists, the committee express their concurrence in them without hesitation.
The committee think that it will be right in the Government of the United States to renew its attempt to obtain the mitigation of a barbarous code, whenever there shall seem a probability of its success. They do not doubt that it will do so. Its first efforts at negotiation were characterized by an anxiety to limit the evils of wars; and if it seem to have desisted from the prosecution of this design, the committee believe that this circumstance must be attributed, not to a change in the policy of the United States, but to the perseverance in their former policy of other nations.
The committee are not unaware that the "United States are better situated than any other nation to profit by privateerings" but they are far from opposing this calculation to a regulation which, if the Powers of the world would adopt it, they too should consider as a happy improvement in the laws of nations.
It is an improvement, however, which cannot be made without the consent of other States. The committee will not flatter the memorialists by expressing the opinion that such consent will probably be given; but as it can be obtained only, if at all, through the Executive Government, to whose discretion the conduct of negotiations has been properly confided by the constitution, they recommend to the House the following resolution:
Resolved, That the Committee of Foreign Relations be discharged from the further consideration of the memorials relating to the practice of privateering, and that they be referred to the Secretary of State.