United States Statutes at Large/Volume 1/4th Congress/1st Session/Chapter 36

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Chap. ⅩⅩⅩⅥ.—An Act for the relief and protection of American Seamen.


Two agents to be appointed.Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, be, and hereby is authorized to appoint two or more agents; the one of whom shall reside in the kingdom of Great Britain, and the others at such foreign ports, as the President of the United States shall direct. Their duties.That the duty of the said agents shall be, under the direction of the President of the United States, to inquire into the situation of such American citizens or others, sailing, conformably to the law of nations, under the protection of the American flag, as have been, or may hereafter be impressed or detained by any foreign power, to endeavour, by all legal means, to obtain the release of such American citizens or others, as aforesaid; and to render an account of all impressments and detentions whatever, from American vessels, to the executive of the United States.

Additional agents may be appointed during the recess of the Senate.Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That if it should be expedient to employ an additional agent or agents, for the purposes authorized by this law, during the recess of the Senate, the President alone be, and hereby is, authorized to appoint such agent or agents.

Appropriation.Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby authorized to draw, annually, out of the treasury of the United States, a sum not exceeding fifteen thousand dollars, not otherwise appropriated, to be applied by him in such proportions as he shall direct, to the payment of the compensation of the said agents, for their services, and the incidental expenses attending the performance of the duties imposed on them by this act.

Collectors to grant certificates of citizenship.Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That the collector of every district shall keep a book or books, in which, at the request of any seaman, being a citizen of the United States of America, and producing proof of his citizenship, authenticated in the manner hereinafter directed, he shall enter the name of such seaman, and shall deliver to him a certificate, in the following form, that is to say: “I, A. B., collector of the district of D., do hereby certify, That E. F., an American seaman, aged years, or thereabouts, of the height of feet inches, [describing the said seaman as particularly as may be] has, this day, produced to me proof in the manner directed in the act, intituled “An act for the relief and protection of American seamen;” and, pursuant to the said act, I do hereby certify, that the said E. F. is a citizen of the United States of America: In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal of office, this day of .” And it shall be the duty of the collectors aforesaid, to file and preserve the proofs of citizenship produced, as aforesaid: And for each certificate delivered, as aforesaid, the said collectors shall be entitled to receive from the seaman applying for the same, the sum of twenty-five cents.

In case of the impressment or detention of seamen, master of the ship to make a protest, &c.Sec. 5. And, in order that full and speedy information may be obtained of the seizure or detention, by any foreign power, of any seamen employed on board any ship or vessel of the United States, Be it further enacted, That it shall, and hereby is declared to be the duty of the master of every ship or vessel of the United States, any of the crew whereof shall have been impressed or detained by any foreign power, at the first port at which such ship or vessel shall arrive, if such impressment or detention happened on the high seas, or if the same happened within any foreign port, then in the port in which the same happened, immediately to make a protest, stating the manner of such impressment or detention, by whom made, together with the name and place of residence of the person impressed or detained; distinguishing also, whether he was an American citizen; and if not, to what nation he belonged. And it shall be the duty of such master, to transmit by post, or otherwise, every such protest made in a foreign country, to the nearest consul or agent, or to the minister of the United States resident in such country, if any such there be; preserving a duplicate of such protest, to be by him sent immediately after his arrival within the United States, to the Secretary of State, together with information to whom the original protest was transmitted: And in case such protest shall be made within the United States, or in any foreign country, in which no consul, agent or minister of the United States resides, the same shall, as soon thereafter as practicable, be transmitted by such master, by post or otherwise, to the Secretary of State.

Secretary of State, and Secretary of the Treasury, to transmit this act.Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That a copy of this law be transmitted by the Secretary of State, to each of the ministers and consuls of the United States, resident in foreign countries, and by the Secretary of the Treasury, to the several collectors of the districts of the United States, whose duty it is hereby declared to be, from time to time, to make known the provisions of this law, to all masters of ships and vessels of the United States entering, or clearing at their several offices. Master of ship to make oath before admission to an entry.And the master of every such ship or vessel shall, before he is admitted to an entry, by any such collector, be required to declare on oath, whether any of the crew of the ship or vessel under his command have been impressed or detained, in the course of his voyage, and how far he has complied with the directions of this act: Penalty on masters of ships violating this act.and every such master as shall wilfully neglect or refuse to make the declarations herein required, or to perform the duties enjoined by this act, shall forfeit and pay the sum of one hundred dollars. And it is hereby declared to be the duty of every such collector to prosecute for any forfeiture that may be incurred under this act.

Collectors to send a list, &c. to the Secretary of State every three months.Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That the collector of every port of entry in the United States shall send a list of the seamen registered under this act, once every three months, to the Secretary of State, together with an account of such impressments or detentions, as shall appear, by the protests of the masters, to have taken place.

Limitation of parts of the act.Sec. 8. And be it further enacted, That the first, second and third sections of this act shall be in force for one year, and from thence to the end of the next session of Congress thereafter, and no longer.

Approved, May 28, 1796.