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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 13


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Docno: ADMS-06-13-02-0087-0001

Author: Uhl, Jean Henri David
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1782-07-01

From Jean Henri David Uhl

[salute] Monsieur

Votre Excellence étant Ministre plenipotentiaire des provinces unies de l'Amerique accredité auprès des hautes puissances les états generaux d'Hollande à la Haye à fait eclater autant de marques de ses grandes qualités, qu'elles me donnent la confïance d'implorer vos secours dans un cas singulier qui m'est arrivé avec un armateur Americain.
Le Plantage Fredericdorp à Suriname appartient à ma femme et Famille en heritières usufructuaires testamentaires1 de J. F. Knoffel, les heritières sont les deux filles du Defunt P. L. Knoffel Directeur de Monnoye de sa Majesté prussienne, frère du testateur et par consequent des sujets nées prussiennes à Berlin. Les fruits consistent en Café et vont sur des navires hollandois à notre compte et sont addressés sur le compte du Plantage Fredericdorp pour notre Correspondent Mr. Pieter van der Meulen dirckzoon à Amsterdam.
Il arrive souvent dans la guerre que les Anglois prennent les vaisseaux hollandois chargés de fruits de Suriname, mais les amirautés en Angleterre rendent aux sujets neutres prussiens les fruits qui vont sur leur compte et se trouvent dans les vaisseaux hollandois. { 143 } Les heritiers du Comte de Neal à Berlin qui ont plusieurs Plantages à Suriname ont reclamé et reçu les fruits pris des Anglois sur des Vaisseaux hollandois de leurs plantages; moi même je reclame à present 10000 livres de Café du Plantage Fredericdorp en Angleterre. Nouvellement un Armateur Anglois à pris le vaisseau du Capt. C. G. Weis un americain l'a repris et vendu le vaisseau et la Charge à Martenique; sur le vaisseau hollandois en question se sont trouvé 8679 Livres de Café de mon Plantage Fredericksdorp addressés à mon Correspondent van der Meulen et l'americain s'est approprié le bien des sujets neutres prussiens; que les Anglois leur auroient rendu selon le prix de L'Europe à Londre ou à Amsterdam.2
Si les sujets neutres prussiens ne peuvent recouvrer le bien pris par l'americain, ils ont plus tort à craindre des Americains qui sont amis des Hollandois avec qui les prussiens commercent que des Anglois qui sont ennemis declarés des Hollandois.
L'armateur à eu le droit de s'approprier le bien hollandois repris des Anglois par le droit de la guerre, mais non pas le bien d'un neutre. Il l'a ignoré, mais étant informé que les 8679 livres Café du Plantage Fredericdorp appartiennent aux sujets neutres prussiens, le droit des gens exige qu'il le rende et j'ai sans doute le droit de reclamer le prix des 8679 livres de l'Americain selon la Valeur d'Amsterdam; une bagatelle pour l'armateur qui a pris tout d'un coup trois cent mil livres de Cafe sur le vaisseau hollandois et le prix du navire; mais un grand dommage et la ruine pour une famille à Berlin qui dois vivre de L'usufruis d'un Plantage de Suriname!
Je suis sur que la nation des provinces unies de l'Amerique est animée du meme esprit de droiture d'amour de Justice et de respect pour le droit universel des gens libres, que la nation Angloise dont elle est issue et qu'elle rendra en justice ce qui appartient aux neutres. Mais la difficulté d'y parvenir faute de connoissance des voyes ujitées en Amerique est la raison que je prie Votre Excellence de m'aider.
Mon Correspondent et mandataire en Reclames des Produits du Plantage Fredericdorp à Suriname Mr. P. van der Meulen Dirckz. à Amsterdam étalera à votre Excellence les preuves authentiques que les 8679 livres de Café du Plantage Fredericdorp sont pris dans le vaisseau du Capt. Weis d'un Americain et vendu à Martenique; que les produits du Plantage Fredericksdorp appartiennent aux heritiers de Knoffel sujets neutres prussiens à Berlin et que la reclames est fondé sur la verité du fait; Votre Excellence etant convaincu de la { 144 } verité du fait et du droit, je demande la grave de lui donner la dessus l'attestation, de l'informer de la plus facile maniére dont il puisse recouvrer le prix d'Amsterdam de 8679 livres Café en question pour les sujets neutres prussiens et de suppediter ce qui nous manque de connoissance en Amerique.
Le caractère de votre Excellence deja connu en Europe me fait esperer que votre Excellence me donnera l'occasion de louer et faire connoitre l'amour de Justice de la nation que vous représentés dans les cas du droit des gens envers les neutres sujets prussiens. Je suis avec le plus profond respect Monsieur de votre Excellence le plus humble et très obéissant serviteur,
[signed] Jean Henri David Uhl
Conseiller à la Chambre de Justice superieure
allemande de sa majesté le Roi de Prussè

Docno: ADMS-06-13-02-0087-0002

Author: Uhl, Jean Henri David
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1782-07-01

Jean Henri David Uhl to John Adams: A Translation

[salute] Sir

It is because of the fact that your excellency, minister plenipotentiary of the united provinces of America, has displayed so many of the great qualities of his character, in view of the High Mightinesses, the States General at The Hague, that I have the confidence to ask for assistance in a very singular situation involving an American ship owner.
The Fredericdorp plantation in Suriname belongs to my wife and her family through an usufructuary bequest1 by J. F. Knoffel. The heiresses are the two daughters of the late P. L. Knoffel, finance minister for his Prussian majesty, brother of the testator, and consequently Prussian-born subjects in Berlin. The coffee crop aboard the Dutch ships was ours and was addressed in the name of the Fredericdorp plantation for our correspondent Mr. Pieter van der Meulen in Amsterdam.
It so happens often in the war that the English take Dutch ships loaded with Suriname's goods, but any goods belonging to neutral Prussian subjects on board these Dutch ships are returned by the English admiralty. The heirs of the Count de Neal in Berlin, who have several plantations in Suriname, have reclaimed and received their crops seized by the British from Dutch vessels. I am currently reclaiming 10,000 pounds of coffee from the Fredericdorp plantation in England. Recently, an English ship-owner took the ship of Captain C. G. Weis. An American took it back and sold the vessel and its cargo in Martinique. The 8,679 pounds of coffee from the Fredericdorp plantation, addressed to my correspondent van der Meulen, were on board the Dutch ship in question. The American took what is rightfully the Prussians'; the English would have returned it to them according to the European price in London or Amsterdam.2
{ 145 }
If the neutral Prussians cannot recover the goods taken by the Americans, then the mistake would be to fear the Americans, who are friends with the Dutch and with whom the Prussians trade, rather than to fear the English who are Holland's declared enemy.
The ship owner had the right to confiscate Dutch property taken back from the English by the rules of war but not the property of a neutral party. He ignored this, and being informed that the 8,679 pounds of coffee from the Fredericdorp plantation belong to the neutral Prussians, the law of nations demands that he return them. I no doubt have the right to reclaim the price of the 8,679 pounds according to the value in Amsterdam. It is a trifle for the ship owner who suddenly took 300,000 pounds of coffee from a Dutch ship and the ship itself; but what great pity and ruination for a Berlin family whose livelihood depends on the profits from a Suriname plantation!
I am certain that the united provinces of America are animated with the same spirit of love of justice and respect for the universal rights of free people as the English nation from which it descended, and that justice will be brought to the neutrals. But the difficulty in achieving this lies in not knowing the common ways in America, and that is the reason I am asking your excellency for assistance.
My correspondent and proxy for reclamations for the Fredericdorp plantation in Suriname, Mr. P. van der Meulen Dirckz in Amsterdam, will send authenticating proof to your excellency that 8,679 pounds of coffee from Fredericdorp plantation were taken from Captain Weis' ship by an American and sold in Martinique; that the Fredericdorp plantation's products belong to Knoffel's heirs, the neutral Prussian subjects in Berlin; and that the reclamation is based on fact. I ask that your excellency, being convinced of the truth of the facts and the law, grant me the favor of giving you the above attestation and of informing you in the easiest way possible so that you may recover the Amsterdam price for the 8,679 pounds of coffee in question for the Prussian neutrals, and provide us with the knowledge we lack about America.
Your excellency's character is already well known in Europe and makes me hope that you will give me this occasion to praise and recognize the love of justice in the country you represent in the case of the law of nations toward neutral Prussian subjects. I am, with the deepest respect for your excellency, sir, the very humble and very obedient servant,
[signed] Jean Henri David Uhl
Member of the Supreme German
Court of His Majesty the King of Prussia
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr J. H. D. Uhl. Berlin 1. Juiller 1782 ansd. 9.”
1. That is, the bequest permitted Uhl's wife and family to enjoy the profits of the plantation but did not transfer ownership to them ( OED ).
2. Uhl's complaint concerns the differing views of the status of neutral property. The British followed the traditional principle of the law of nations that enemy property was { 146 } subject to seizure wherever found, even on a neutral ship, while neutral property, unless it was contraband, was free or not subject to seizure wherever found, even on an enemy ship (Emerich de Vattel, The Law of Nations or the Principals of Natural Law, bk. 3, ch. 7, § 115–116). Thus when a British warship or privateer found Prussian merchandise on a Dutch ship, that property would be counted free and returned to the owner. The United States and France followed the alternative principle that free ships made free goods, which provided that all, even neutral, property was subject to seizure on an enemy ship and that all, even enemy, property was free on a neutral ship so long as it was not contraband (Miller, Treaties , 2:20–21). In the case cited by Uhl, the Dutch vessel recaptured from the English had apparently been judged to have been long enough in the hands of its British captors to have assumed the character of an enemy ship and thus all of its cargo was good prize. Nothing further is known about Uhl's case, which was apparently never pursued in the United States, but see JA 's reply of 9 July, below.