right of free departure and transportation from this port to Vera Cruz of a large number of alleged French subjects, and asks that passage may be given to all who apply, and that unrestrained trade be permitted between this port and Vera Cruz, claiming New Orleans and Vera Cruz as ports absolutely opened to unconditional commerce, and asserts that though France and Mexico are at war, there is nothing in the neutrality laws which contravenes the unrestrained traffic he proposes to have sanctioned.
The communication from the Mexican consulate, a copy of which is also submitted herewith,* simply refers to a call in the newspapers for laborers to go to Vera Cruz, and the advertisement of a proposed semi-monthly line of steam communication between this city and Vera Cruz, and, though not so stated, is apparently intended to ask my intervention in the matter.
I have answered the communications of the French consul by stating to him that I would refer the matter to may Government, deeming it a matter of sufficient importance for its consideration, and await its instructions before making any decision.
A brief statement of views suggested by the neutrality act of 20th April, 1818, may not be inappropriate. In accordance with the provisions of that act, it is the duty of the Government of the United States to watch with care the acts of citizens of the United States, as well as of foreign citizens within its jurisdiction, that may in the slightest degree endanger or destroy the friendly relations of the Government with foreign nations.
This act in explicit terms provides against, and makes a high misdemeanor, the direct or indirect enlistment, or hiring for enlistment, immediately or at a subsequent period, into the service, naval or military, of any foreign country, of any person or persons, be they citizens or not, within the jurisdiction of the United States; with the single exception that citizens of foreign countries transiently but not resident within the jurisdiction of the United States are permitted to take service on board of a war vessel, letter of marque or privateer, that was such prior to its arrival within the Unites States.
In equally explicit terms it prohibits and makes a high misdemeanor the fitting out of vessels and increasing the force for a foreign belligerent against a nation at peace with the United States. The setting on foot, or providing or preparing the means for any military expedition or enterprise, against a nation or people at peace with the United States, is also a high misdemeanor.
Though there appears to be no direct provision against permitting the departure and transportation of persons and the exportation of animals or materials, which of their nature areaceful or warlike, yet the Government has unquestionably the right to impose such conditions upon transportation and exportation as will quarantee the peaceful intent and the trustfulness of the alleged purposes.
The sixth section of the act may seem to refer, in direct terms, only to the immediately from the territory of the United States, but it is very evident that it is intended to give the Government discretion to determine the ultimate purposes for which expeditions are fitted out or prepared, or persons leave the United States, or material are exported or prepared for exportation, no matter how apparently fair the objects may seem at first sight.