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The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - 02539 (Page 6)

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The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - 02539
GLC02539
government to the irritating & injurious vexations we sustain, & make one more solemn appeal
to the justice, the honor & the real interests of the nation.
Our complaints respecting the depredations on our commerce may be closed under the
following heads.
1
st
. The construction given to the article of our treaty relative to contraband of war.
2
dly
. The extent given to the rule concerning blockaded ports.
3
dly
. The unjust decisions of their courts of vice admiralty, & the impunity which attends captures
totally vexations & without probable cause of seizure.
We will consider
1
st
. The interpretation given to the 18
th
article of our treaty: Under the expression and generally
whatever may serve directly for the equipment of vessels which closes the enumeration of
prohibited articles, our merchant vessels have been seized & condemnd, because a part of
their cargoes consisted of such articles as may, by possibility, serve for the equipment of
vessels, altho they are not generally [13] so applied, but are most commonly used for
purposes of husbandry. Such are [tiklenberg] [oznabrigs], & small nails, which, in the courts
of vice admiralty, have been adjudgd contraband of war.
This vexations construction is believd to be as unjustifiable as it is unfriendly.
As the law of nations on this subject can only establish general principles, particular
treaties supply this defect by defining precisely, between the parties, the relative rights of each as
a belligerent or neutral power.
Thus the law of nations is clearly understood to declare that articles exclusively usd in
war, are contraband; & that all articles not usd in war are the objects of lawful commerce. But
articles of promiscuous use, proper either for peace or war, may be, it has been contended,
contraband or not, according to circumstances.
Admiting this opinion to be correct, it woud seem to be a reasonable construction of the
law, that the character of articles thus doubtful in themselves, shoud be deter[14]mind by those
circumstances which may ascertain the use to which they are to be applied. If the circumstances
of the cargo & its destination show, unequivocally, that its application must be to military
purposes, materials fit for both peace & war, may assume the character of contraband; but if
those circumstances afford solid ground for the opinion that the suspected materials are designed

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