« PreviousContinue »
EXAMINER. 285 War at Havre. The first intelligence of this event received in England, was accompanied with an assurance from the Commandant of Havre, that Sir Sidney would be treated with every indulgence due to his rank. * Notwithstanding which, he was ordered by the French Government into close and solitary confinement. We shall not attempt to prove what the Directory has never been able to deny, that his conduct was in strict conformity to the Laws and Usages of War. What then could induce them to deprive him of those privileges of War to which, by his rank, and by the terms on which he surrendered himself, he was entitled, except a wish to frustrate the object of the Cartel, by creating this obstacle to its conclusion?
That the Negotiation for this purpose could no longer be entertained on our part, until some satisfactory explanation was given respecting Sir S. SMITH, cannot be contested, without contesting also his title to the protection of his Country, which he had so gallantly served. This explanation having been sought for in various shapes, and by various representations, to which no answer was returned, the Negotiation of the Cartel was suspended until February 1797, when a Projet presented by Mr. SwinBURNE, our Agent at Paris, to the Commissioners ap
• The following is an Extract of the Letter from the Commandant:
Havre, 29th Germinal, 4th Year of the
French Republic. " Sir SIDNEY SMITH is a Prisoner of War, and will be treated with “ every mark of attention due to his rank. In this respect you may “ be assured that he and his Companions will find, in ebe generosity of “ France, every indulgence consistent with their present situation.
« LA BRETECHE.”'
pointed pointed to treat with him, was agreed to by the latter. In this agreement it was stipulated, among other conditions, that all British Prisoners then in France should forthwith be sent back to England. Whether Mr. Swin. BURNE, when he signed this Projet, had any or sufficient reasons to suppose that, under these general words, Sir SIDNEY SMITH would not be considered as an exception, we profess not to know; but the fact is, that he signed it, subject to the ratification of his Government, without requiring any specific assurance on this point.
It could not, however, be left in doubt; and therefore at the same time that Mr. SWINBURNE was instructed to inform the French Commissioners, that the Agreement, however favourable * to France in several respects, would be confirmed and carried into effect in this Country, he was directed to inquire whether it was distinctly understood on their part to extend it to Sir Sidney SMITH. After several months delay, the Directory came to a resolution upon this demand, as will appear by the follow. ing Arrété : :
Extract from the Register of the Deliberations of the
Executive Directory. « Captain Sir Sidney Smith shall be considered as “ A PRISONER OF WAR, and as such, HE MAY BE “ EXCHANGED FOR ANY FRENCH OFFICER OF EQUAL • RANK; but his Exchange shall not take place until the “ French Agent in London shall have sent back to France « at least Four THOUSAND French Prisoners, to be se
• A balance of upwards of 7,000 Men, due to England on the pare tial Exchanges which had previously taken place, was remitted by this Cartel, without any return or compensation on the part of France,
« lected by him from the whole number now in England, s over and above whatever number may be sent back in “ return for an equal number of English Prisoners now u in France."
This Resolution was communicated to Mr. Swin. BURNE on the 4th of September last, accompanied with an explanation, that until that part of it which requires the restoration of Four Thousand Men, was fulfilled, Sir Sidney SMITH would not be allowed the privilege of Parole. * It is scarcely necessary to add, that this pre
* This Resolution accords so entirely with the spirit uniformly ma. nifested by the French Republic, to set aside and disregard all the principles which constitute and determine the Laws and regulate the usages of Independent Nations, both in Peace and War, and in their place to substitute its own arbitrary Decrees and Measures, that our Readers, who have seen this same spirit brought forward in every successive Negotiation for Peace with this Country, will be the less astonished to find it introduced in subversion of the Regulations and Duties which the interests of humanity prescribe to Nations in the state of War. In this instance, indeed, it appears to us that the Directory, considering its pretensions in other points, has shown great moderation. Why not, as in the Negotiations for Peace, recur to the Constitution and to the Laws of the Republic? Is it not therein declared, that all Frenchmen are free ? And by this Declaration, is not the Directory bound to insist upon the liberation of all Frenchmen detained in England, as a Preliminary 10 any Cartel ? - In their principles, it appears to us to have been neither consistent nor constitutional, to have told our Government on wbat conditions Sir SIDNEY SMITH, or any other British Prisoner, would be released, without previously obtaining our consent to this Preliminary.
But to consider the Resolution of the Directory as it now stands :In the first place, it begins by a Declaration that Sir S. SMITH is a Prisoner of War. How then are they justified in confining him, and having him brought a short time after his captivity before a Court of Justice, as a Prisoner of State?
Acknowledging posterous Proposal was immediately rejected by our Go. vernment.
Our treatment of the French Prisoners of every description, up to this period, had been uniformly liberal and kind, and the same in every respect as was allon ed to our other Enemies * The privileges granted to Officers were as extensive as in any former War, and their allowances the same. The Privates were subsisted in the same manner as our own Troops; the scale of their rations having been increased in the same proportion since the last War. The French Agent was allowed to visit them in every part of the Kingdom, without the least restraint, or even the formality of asking leave, which afforded him a certainty of having thereby a constant opportunity of personally ascertaining their situation ; whilst Mr. SwinBURNE, the English Commissioner in France, instead of meeting with the same facility of visiting his Countrymen in Prison, was in fact himself confined since the month of March last, to the limits of one small Town, (Fon. tainbleau,) debarred from all intercourse with British Prisons, and consequently prevented from examining into their complaints, or administering relief, where it might be required.
Acknowledging him to be simply a Prisoner of War, they next tell you, he shall not enjoy the usual indulgences granted to Officers of his Rank, in that situation, unless you will previously restore 4,000 picked men to France !
* No complaints whatever have been received either from the Spaniards or the Dutch on this subject. The Governments of both Countries, indeed, have publicly acknowledged that their Prisoners in England are treated with great kindness and liberality; and certainly their testimony on this occasion is not liable to the suspicion of partiality to our Government.
During the Negotiation at Lisle, whilst, in the consciousness of their own sincerity and moderation, the British Government indulged a hope that a Treaty of Peace would supersede all the difficulties of this secondary subject of Negotiation, they abstained from pressing for a final explanation on these points. But when the Declaration respecting Sir SIDNEY SMITH, made to Mr. SWINBURNE, on the 4th of September, was made known here ; and when the other consequences of that fatal day had destroyed every hope of Peace ; whilst the most lamentable accounts were received, from every quarter, of the hardships endured by British Prisoners in France, our Government could no longer remain silent.
It will appear scarcely credible, that, precisely at this very juncture, violent representations were received from the French Government, complaining, in the most injurious terms, of the cruel treatment of their Prisoners in England. Their Official Papers were filled with Paragraphs to the same effect, whilst M. CHARRETIE, who was then upon a general visit to all the Prisons in the Kingdom, was a daily witness to the contrary.
In answer to these representations, and upon a full consideration of our just grounds of complaint against France, our Government, finding that no redress was to be obtained by conciliation and forbearance, signified to M. CHAKRETIE, in the beginning of October, an order to confine his residence to Bath, until the French Governe ment should send a Passport to enable Captain Cotes (appointed to succeed Mr. SWINBURNE) to repair to Paris*.
• As soon as the Passport (till then refused) arrived, M. CHARRITIE was allowed to return to London.