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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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2609. ENEMY GOODS, Right to seize.—
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2609. ENEMY GOODS, Right to seize.—

I believe it cannot be doubted, but that by
the general laws of nations, the goods of a
friend found in the vessel of an enemy are
free, and the goods of an enemy found in the
vessel of a friend are lawful prize. Upon
this principle, I presume, the British armed
vessels have taken the property of French
citizens found in our vessels, in the cases
mentioned, [166] and I confess I should be at a
loss on what principle to reclaim it. It is
true that sundry nations, desirous of avoiding
the inconveniences of having their vessels
stopped at sea, ransacked, carried into port,
and detained, under pretense of having enemy
goods aboard, have, in many instances, introduced
by their special treaties another principle between them, that enemy bottoms shall
make enemy goods, and friendly bottoms
friendly goods; a principle much less embarrassing
to commerce, and equal to all
parties in point of gain and loss. But this
is altogether the effect of particular treaty,
controlling in special cases the general principle
of the law of nations, and therefore
taking effect between such nations only as
have so agreed to control it. England has
generally determined to adhere to the rigorous
principle, having, in no instance, as far
as I can recollect, agreed to the modification of
letting the property of the goods follow that
of the vessel, except in the single one of her
treaty with France. We have adopted this
modification in our treaties with France, the
United Netherlands and Russia; and therefore,
as to them, our vessels cover the goods
of their enemies, and we lose our goods when
in the vessels of their enemies. * * * With
England, Spain, Portugal, and Austria, we
have no treaties; therefore, we have nothing
to oppose to their acting according to the
general law of nations, that enemy goods are
lawful prize though found in the bottom of


Page 297
a friend.—
To E. C. Genet. Washington ed. iv, 24. Ford ed., vi, 356.
(Pa., July. 1793)


The capture of French citizens, with their slaves
and merchandise, while on their way, in merchant
vessels of the United States, from the French West
Indies to the United States.—Editor.