Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11
[Volume 3, Page 97]
Charles Lee, Treason21 Aug. 17981 Ops. Atty. Gen. 84
Having taken into consideration the acts of the French republic relative to the United States, and the laws of Congress passed at the last session, it is my opinion that there exists not only an actual maritime war between France and the United States, but a maritime war authorized by both nations. Consequently, France is our enemy; and to aid, assist, and abet that nation in her maritime warfare, will be treason in a citizen or any other person within the United States not commissioned under France. But in a French subject, commissioned by France, acting openly according to this commission, such assistance will be hostility. The former may be tried and punished according to our laws; the latter must be treated according to the laws of war.
I have thought it my duty to make this communication in consequence of the information you received from Rhode Island, of the intentions of a Frenchman, whose name I do not now call to mind, who is said to be somewhere in this country, on the business of buying ships and supplies of a military kind, for the West Indies. He should be apprehended and tried as a traitor, unless he has a commission, and acts according to it; in which case he should be treated as an enemy, and confined as a prisoner of war.
© 1987 by The University of Chicago