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And it is further agreed, that his Britannic Majesty will also earnestly recommend it to his parliament to make compensation for all towns, villages, and farms, burnt and destroyed by his troops or adherents in the said United States.
There existed a free commerce upon mutual faith between Great Britain and America. The merchants of the former credited the merchants and planters of the latter with great quantities of goods, on the common expectation that the merchants having sold the goods would make the accustomed remittances; that the planters would do the same by the labor of their negroes, and the produce of that labor, tobacco, rice, indigo, &c.
England, before the goods were sold in America, sends an armed force, seizes those goods in the stores, some even in the ships that brought them, and carries them off. Seizes also and carries off the tobacco, rice, and indigo, provided by the planters to make returns, and even the negroes from whose labor they might hope to raise other produce for that purpose. Britain now demands that the debts shall nevertheless be paid.
Will she, can she, justly refuse making compensation for such seizures?
If a draper who had sold a piece of linen to a neighbor on credit, should follow him, take the linen from him by force, and then send a bailiff to arrest him for the debt, would any court of law or equity award the payment of the debts, without ordering a restitution of the cloth?
Will not the debtors in America cry out, that if this compensation be not made, they were betrayed by the pretended credit, and are now doubly ruined, first by the enemy, and then by the negociators at Paris, the goods and negroes sold
them being taken from them, with all they had besides; and they are now to be obliged to pay for what they have been robbed of.
TO RICHARD OSWALD, ESQ.
Passy, November 26, 1782. You may well remember that in the beginning of our conferences, before the other commissioners arrived, on mentioning to me a retribution for the loyalists whose estates had been forfeited, I acquainted you that nothing of that kind could be stipulated by us, the confiscations being made by virtue of laws of particular states, which the congress had no power to contravene or dispense with, and therefore could give us no such authority in our commission. And I gave it as my opinion, honestly and cordially, that if a reconciliation was intended, no mention should be made in our negociations of those people; for they having done infinite mischief to our properties by wantonly burning and destroying farm-houses, villages, and towns, if compensation for their losses were insisted on, we should certainly exhibit against it an account of all the ravages they had committed, which would necessarily recall to view scenes of barbarity that must inflame instead of conciliating, and tend to pepetuate an enmity that we all profess a desire of extinguishing. Understanding however from you, that this was a point your ministry had at heart, I wrote concerning it to congress, and I have lately received the following:
"By the United States in Congress assembled.
September 10, 1782.
"Resolved, that the secretary for foreign affairs be, and is hereby directed to obtain as speedily as possible authentic returns of the stores and other property which have been carried off or destroy
ed in the course of the war by the enemy, and to transmit the same to the ministers plenipotentiary for negociating a peace.
"That in the mean time the secretary for foreign affairs inform the said ministers, that many thousands of slaves, and other property to a very great amount, have been carried off or destroyed by the enemy; and that, in the opinion of congress, the great loss of property which the citizens of the United States have sustained by the enemy will be considered by several states as an inseparable bar to their making restitution or indemnification to the former owners of property, which has been or may be forfeited to, or confiscated by any of the states. "In consequence of these resolutions, and the circular letters to the secretary, the assembly of Pennsylvania then sitting passed the following act, viz.
"The state of Pennsylvania in general assembly.
Wednesday, September 18, 1782.
"The Bill intitled 'An Act for procuring an estimate of the damages sustained by the inhabitants of Pennsylvania, from the troops and adherents to the king of Great Britain during the present war, was read a second time.
"Ordered to be transcribed and printed for public consideration. "Extracts from the minutes,
"PETER Z. LLOYD,
"Clerk of the general assembly."
"Bill intitled 'An Act for procuring an estimate of the damages sustained by the inhabitants of Pennsylvania, from the troops and adherents of the king of Great Britain during the present war.'
"Whereas great damages of the most wanton nature have been committed by the armies of the king of Great Britain or their adherents, within the territory of the United States of North America, unwarranted by the practice of civilized nations, and only to be accounted for from the vindictive spirit of the said king and his officers. And whereas an accurate account and estimate of such damages, more especially the waste and destruction of property, may be very useful to the people of the United States of America, in forming a future treaty of peace, and in the mean time may serve to exhibit in a true light to the nations of Europe the conduct of the said king, his ministers, officers and adherents, to the end, therefore, that proper measures
be taken to ascertain the damages aforesaid, which have been done to the citizens and inhabitants of Pennsylvania, in the course of the pre sent war, within this state :
"Be it enacted by the representatives of the freemen of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in general assembly met, and by the authority of the same, that in every county of this state, which has been invaded by the armies, soldiers, and adherents of the king of Great Britain, the commissioners of every such county shall imme diately meet together, each within their county, and issue directions to the assessors of the respective townships, districts, and places within such county, to call upon the inhabitants of every township and place, to furnish accounts and estimates of the damages, waste, spoil, and destruction, which have been done and committed as aforesaid, upon the property, real or personal, within the same township or place, since the first day of......., which was in the year of our Lord 177., and the same accounts and estimates to transmit to the said commissioners without delay. And if any person or persons shall refuse or neglect to make out such accounts and estimates, the said assessors of the township or place shall, from their own knowledge, and by any other reasonable and lawful methods, take and render such an account and estimate of all damages done or committed as aforesaid.
"Provided always, that all such accounts and estimates, to be made out and transmitted as aforesaid, shall contain a narrative of the time and circumstances, and, if in the power of the person aggrieved, the names of the general or other officer, or adherent of the enemy, by whom the damage in any case was done, or under whose orders the army, detachment, party, or persons committing the same, acted at that time, and also the name and addition of the person and persons whose property was so damaged or destroyed: and that all such accounts and estimates be made in current money, upon oath or affirmation of the sufferer, or of others having knowledge concerning the same; and that in every case it be set forth, whether the party injured had received any satisfaction for his loss, and by whom the same was given.
"And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the said commissioners having obtained the said accounts and estimates from the assessors of the several townships and places, shall proceed to inspect and register the same in a book to be provided for that purpose,
distinguishing the districts and townships, and entering those of each place together; and if any account or estimate be imperfect or not sufficiently verified and established, the said commissioners shall have power, and they or any two of them are hereby authorised to summon and compel any person whose evidence they shall think necessary, to appear before them at a day and place to be appointed, to be examined upon oath or affirmation, concerning any damage or injury as aforesaid; and the said commissioners shall, upon the call and demand of the president or vice-president of the supreme executive council, deliver or send to the secretary of the said council, all or any of the original accounts and estimates aforesaid, and shall also deliver or send to the said secretary, copies of the book aforesaid, or any part or parts thereof, upon reasonable notice.
"And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all losses of negroes or mulatto slaves and servants who have been deluded, and carried away by the enemies of the United States, and which have not been recovered or recompensed, shall be comprehended within the accounts and estimates aforesaid, and that the commissioners and assessors of any county, which hath not been invaded as aforesaid, shall nevertheless inquire after and procure accounts and estimates of any damages suffered by the loss of such servants, and slaves, as is herein before directed as to other property.
"And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the charges and expenses of executing this act, as to the pay of the said commissioners and assessors, shall be, as in other cases, with the witnesses, rewarded for their loss of time and trouble, as witnesses sum-' moned to appear in the courts of quarter sessions of the peace, and the said charges and expenses shall be defrayed by the commonwealth, but paid in the first instance out of the monies in the hands of the treasurer of the county for county rates, and levies, upon orders drawn by the commissioners of the proper county."
We have not yet had time to hear what has been done by the other assemblies: but I have no doubt that similar acts will be made by all of them; and that the mass of evidence produced by the execution of those acts, not only of the enormities committed by those people under the direction of British generals, but of those committed by the British troops