May 05, 2016 - Sale 2413

Sale 2413 - Lot 13

Price Realized: $ 2,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 800 - $ 1,200
ENFORCING THE NEUTRALITY ACT OF 1794 KNOX, HENRY. Letter Signed, "Knox / Sec'y of War," to the Governor of VA Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee III, sending regulations concerning armed vessels sailing from U.S. ports and "An Act in addition to an Act for the punishment of certain Crimes against the United States" [neither present], and outlining some of the main points. 2 pages, folio, with integral blank; short separations at folds with minor loss, some bleed-through. (MRS) [Philadelphia], 1 July 1794

Additional Details

"Some doubts having arisen in several of the States as to the circumstances of equipment in any vessel belonging to the belligerent nations which may be deemed an unlawful increase or augmentation of force, it has been judged advisable . . . to give the following explanation.
"The mounting additional Guns, or changing or altering the Calibre or size of the Guns in any manner whatever, the making of new Gun Carriages or the cutting of new port holes in any part of a vessel are each adjudged to be an unlawful augmentation of force, and therefore to be prevented.
"This construction had its full operation upon the British letter of Marque Ship Jane, which arrived in the port of Philadelphia in the month of July 1793. New Gun Carriages were made, additional Guns mounted, which had been brought in the hold of the said vessel and new port holes were cut in her sides and stern. Each and every one of these Acts being deemed unlawful, she was obliged to reland the new Gun Carriages, dismount the additional Guns and dismantle and effectually close up the new port holes.
"Altho' this rule has been hitherto considered as applicable to the belligerent powers only; yet in order to prevent any abuse or national responsibility from the Subjects of other neutral nations fitting out or equipping vessels in our Ports for the use of one of the warring nations it is extended to all vessels belonging even to neutrals.
"The United States being also a neutral nation the Vessels of their Citizens in most cases do not require to be armed. The arming of such vessels therefore raises a presumption that it is done with an hostile intent and contrary to the prohibitions of the Act of Congress. Some special cases indeed may occur in which arming may be proper and necessary but these cases ought always to be well examined and ascertained lest they should cover collusions with some of the belligerent powers. To guard against such an abuse no vessel belonging to any Citizen of the United States is to be permitted to be armed and to sail until after all circumstances concerning her shall have been transmitted to the President and his decision thereon made known. . . ."
The present letter is one of a number of copies--probably 15--sent to the state governors.
During the War of the First Coalition (1792–1797), Revolutionary France defended itself against the European powers, including Great Britain. The U.S., having signed the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain in 1783, viewed Britain as a neutral power in 1794. Despite this, some entrepreneurial Americans were persuaded to attack British and other ships on behalf of France, requiring a Government response to those who would threaten U.S. foreign relations: the Neutrality Act, passed by Congress on June 4, 1794.