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The Neutrality Act of 1794 made it illegal for an American to wage war against any country at peace with the United States.

The Act declared in part:[1]

If any person shall within the territory or jurisdiction of the United States begin or set on foot or provide or prepare the means for any military expedition or enterprise...against the territory or dominions of any foreign prince or state of whom the United States was at peace that person would be guilty of a misdemeanour

The act also forbade foreign war vessels to outfit in American waters and set a three mile territorial limit at sea.[2]

One reason for the act was to create a liability for violation of Section 8 of Article One of the United States Constitution, which reserves to the United States Congress the power to decide to go to war. [3]

The Act was timely, as some individuals in America were supporting the French Republican Government by engaging in privateering.[4] The Act was used in the trials of Aaron Burr, William S. Smith and Etienne Guinet, who, with Frenchman Jean Baptist LeMaitre, were convicted of outfitting an armed ship to take part in France's war against Great Britain.[5] Some other Americans were engaging in filibuster military operations against British Canada and Spanish possessions in Florida and South America.

Contents

Origins and evolution

The Continental Congress previously had an alliance with France in 1778[6] that France had accused the United States of violating with the 1794 American Jay treaty with Great Britain. The French Ambassador to the United States, Edmond-Charles Genêt, had been actively recruiting privateers for attacks on Spain and Great Britain, with whom the French Republican Government was at war. This led to George Washington's Proclamation of Neutrality in 1793.

The Act of 1794 was superseded by the Neutrality Act of 1817[7] that included States that had recently become independent from Spain that were not mentioned in the original act.[8] Unrecognised governments such as "colonies, districts, or people" were given the same recognition as "states and princes" in the last clause of section 5.[9] Henry Clay had called it "an Act for the benefit of Spain against the republics of America."[9]

The Neutrality Act of 1817 also proscribed maximum penalites of three years imprisonment and up to a three thousand dollar fine.[10]

The Act was updated again in 1838 during the 1837 Rebellions in Canada.

The Neutrality Act was amended several times and remains in force as U.S.C. section 960.[11]

Recent applications

In 1981, nine men involved in Operation Red Dog were sentenced to three years in prison under the Neutrality Act; they had planned to overthrow the government of Dominica.[12][13]

In the 2007 Laotian coup d'état conspiracy allegation, the US government alleged after a sting operation that a group of conspirators planned to violate the Neutrality Act by overthrowing the government of Communist Laos.[14]

See Also

References

  1. ^ Kwakwa, Edward K. (1992). The International Law of Armed Conflict: Personal and Material Fields of Application. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 116. ISBN 0792315588. 
  2. ^ Kim, Sun Pyo (2004). Maritime Delimitation and Interim Arrangements in North East Asia. Martinus Nijhoff. pp. 225. ISBN 900413669X. 
  3. ^ Boyle, Francis A. (2007). Protesting Power: War, Resistance, and Law. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.. pp. 78. ISBN 0742538923. 
  4. ^ Benton, Thomas Hart (1857). "Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856: Dec. 5. 1796-March 3, 1803". D. Appleton. pp. 126. 
  5. ^ U S v. GUINET, 2 U.S. 321 (U.S. Supreme Court 1795).
  6. ^ Cunliffe, Marcus; Kenneth W. Leish (1968). The American Heritage History of the Presidency. American Heritage Pub. Co.. 
  7. ^ Evans, Lawrence Boyd (1922). Leading Cases on International Law. Callaghan and Co.. 
  8. ^ Wheaton, Henry; Richard Henry (1866). Elements of International Law. Little, Brown & Company. pp. 439. 
  9. ^ a b Beamis, George (1864). Precedents of American Neutrality. The University of Michigan. pp. 38. 
  10. ^ May, Robert E. (2002). Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America. University of North Carolina Press. pp. Chapter 1. ISBN 0-8078-2703-7. 
  11. ^ Jules Lobel (1983), "The Rise and Decline of the Neutrality Act: Sovereignty and Congressional War Powers in United States Foreign Policy", Harvard International Law Journal 24, http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/hilj24&div=4&id=&page= 
  12. ^ "2 GUILTY IN NEW ORLEANS FOR PLOT ON DOMINICA INVASION", The New York Times, June 21, 1981, http://www.nytimes.com/1981/06/21/us/2-guilty-in-new-orleans-for-plot-on-dominica-invasion.html 
  13. ^ "KLANSMEN GET 3-YEAR TERMS", Boston Globe, July 23, 1981 
  14. ^ Weiner, Tim (2008-05-11). "Gen. Vang Pao’s Last War". The New York Times Magazine. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/magazine/11pao-t.html. 
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