"...It is at the request of several friends that I trouble you with this letter, the purport of which is, to remove an unfavourable impression from your mind with respect to the case of a prize cargo, in which Captain Hayley is concerned. It was condemned at Dieppe as a Prize to the Republic as if it had been a smuggled cargo, and the report was made to you in that manner whilst you were Minister of Justice. The appeal is now depending at Roen..."
While living in Dieppe under the regime of the Directorate (1795-1799), Paine borrowed seven thousand livres from an American adventurer, Nathan Haley. In 1796, Haley had delivered Paine’s famous 36-page public letter to George Washington, mentioned herein, to Benjamin Franklin Bache, editor of the Democratic-Republican Aurora of Philadelphia. It appears from this letter that Paine was willing to use his public letter as evidence of the pro-French, anti-British sentiments of himself and his friend Haley. The key to Paine’s persuasion was Jay’s Treaty, which Comte Merlin of Douai and the French Directory castigated. Haley and other French privateers were, by Paine’s read, doing what Jay’s Treaty allowed the British to do. Operating out of Dieppe in 1797, Nathan Haley attacked and seized an American vessel, Hare, taking prisoners and £50,000 sterling in confiscated goods. The vessel was on its way from London to New York, according to diplomat Charles C. Pinckney. Pinckney, writing to Secretary of State Pickering, felt that such actions threatened “avowed hostilities” between France and the United States—indeed, President Adams, later that year, sent Elbridge Gerry and John Marshall to join Pinckney in Paris to try to forestall war. When the Directory demanded a bribe in the so-called “XYZ Affair,” Adams and Congress mobilized for war and empowered American privateers and naval vessels to retaliate against French shipping.
Interestingly, in 1797, the French courts disavowed Haley’s actions and “condemned” his prize. A faction within the French government, possibly including Comte Merlin of Douai (who as Minister of Justice had viewed Haley’s protest), was opposed to highhanded provocations of the Americans. It is not known how Comte Merlin of Douai received Paine’s letter, or whether the “appeal at Rouen” went in Haley’s favor. Both Paine and Haley returned to America after the election of Thomas Jefferson and the defeat of the Federalist Party.
In August 1803, Paine went to see Haley at Stonington, presumably to pay off some of his debt accrued in Dieppe. As Paine biographer John Keane notes, Paine ended up staying with Haley for several months, becoming an “itinerant lecturer on political affairs,” prognosticating the imminent conquest of Britain by Napoleon.
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