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Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The

The case of the Chevalier de Mezieres


the course of this conversation, he had mentioned the liberty we enjoyed of carrying our fish to the French islands. I repeated to him what I had hinted in my letter of November the 20th, 1785, that I considered as a prohibition, the laying such duties on our fish, and giving such premiums on theirs, as made a difference between their and our fishermen of fifteen livres the quintal, in an article which sold for but fifteen livres. He said it would not have that effect, for two reasons. 1. That their fishermen could not furnish supplies sufficient for their islands, and, of course, the inhabitants must, of necessity, buy our fish. 2. That from the constancy of our fishery, and the short season during which theirs continued, and also from the economy and management of ours, compared with the expense of theirs, we had always been able to sell our fish, in their islands, at twenty-five livres the quintal, while they were obliged to ask thirty-six livres. (I suppose he meant the livre of the French islands.) That thus, the duty and premium had been a necessary operation on their side, to place the sale of their fish on a level with ours, and, that without this, theirs could not bear the competition.

I have here brought together the substance of what was said on the preceding subjects, not pretending to give it verbatim, which my memory does not enable me to do. I have, probably, omitted many things which were spoken, but have mentioned nothing which

was not. I was interrupted, at times, with collateral matters. One of these was important. The Count de Vergennes complained, and with a good deal of stress, that they did not find a sufficient dependence on arrangements taken with us. This was the third time, too, he had done it; first, in a conversation at Fontainebleau, when he first complained to me of the navigation acts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire; secondly, in his letter of October the 30th, 1785, on the same subject; and now, in the present conversation, wherein he added, as another instance, the case of the Chevalier de Mezieres, heir of General Oglethorpe, who, notwithstanding that the 11th article of the treaty provides, that the subjects or citizens of either party shall succeed, _ab intestato_, to the lands of their ancestors, within the dominions of the other, had been informed from Mr. Adams, and by me also, that his right of succession to the General's estate in Georgia was doubtful. He observed too, that the administration of justice with us was tardy, insomuch, that their merchants, when they had money due to them within our States, considered it as desperate; and, that our commercial regulations, in general, were disgusting to them. These ideas were new, serious, and delicate. I decided, therefore, not to enter into them at that moment, and the rather, as we were speaking in French, in which language I did not choose to hazard myself. I withdrew from the objections of the tardiness of justice with us, and the disagreeableness of our commercial regulations, by a general observation, that I was not sensible they were well founded. With respect to the case of the Chevalier de Mezieres, I was obliged to enter into some explanations. They related chiefly to the legal operation of our Declaration of Independence, to the undecided question whether our citizens and British subjects were thereby made aliens to one another, to the general laws as to conveyances of land to aliens, and the doubt, whether an act of the Assembly of Georgia might not have been passed, to confiscate General Oglethorpe's property, which would of course prevent its devolution on any heir. M. Reyneval observed, that in this case, it became a mere question of fact, whether a confiscation of these lands had taken place before the death of General Oglethorpe, which fact might be easily known by, inquiries in Georgia, where the possessions lay. I thought it very material, that the opinion of this court should be set to rights on these points. On my return, therefore, I wrote the following observations on them, which, the next time I went to Versailles (not having an opportunity of speaking to the Count de Vergennes), I put into the hands of M. Reyneval, praying him to read them, and to ask the favor of the Count to do the same.

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