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“The American Government, them, is prepared to say that the practice of impressing seamen from American vessels can not hereafter be allowed to take place. That practice is founded on principles which it does not recognise, and is invariably attended by consequences so unjust, so injurious, and of such formidable magnitude, as can not be submitted to.
“In the early disputes between the two Governments on this so long contested topic, the distinguished person to whose hands were first intrusted the seals of this department declared, that ‘the simplest rule will be, that the vessel being American shall be evidence that the seamen on board are such.”
“Fifty years' experience, the utter failure of many negotiations, and a careful consideration now had of the whole subject at a moment when the passions are laid, and no present interest or emergency exists to bias the judgment, have fully convinced this Government that this is not only the simplest and best, but the only rule, which can be adopted and observed, consistently with the rights and honor of the United States and the security of their citizens. That rule announces therefore, what will hereafter be the principle maintained by their Government. In every regularly documented American merchant vessel the
crew who navigate it will find their protection in the flag which is over them. “This announcement is not made, my lord, to revive useless recollections of the past, nor to stir the embers from fires which have been, in a great degree, smothered by many years of peace. Far otherwise. Its purpose is to extinguish those fires effectually, before new incidents arise to fan them into flame. The communication is in the spirit of peace, and for the sake of peace, and springs from a deep and conscientious conviction that high interests of both nations require that this so-long contested and controverted subject should now be finally put to rest. I persuade myself, my lord, that you will do justice to this frank and sincere avowal of motives, and that you will communicate your sentiments, in this respect, to your government.” Noah Webster, our distinguished countryman, in his Treatise on the Rights of Neutral Nations, forcibly illustrates our doctrines, and affirms that, “the ocean is the common highway of mankind; and that no nation can appropriate it to its own use, exclusively.” He admits that a maritime appurtenant jurisdiction to the extent of a marine league from the shore exists, but that on the high seas each nation has, in the nature of things, the same exclusive jurisdiction over its ships and the * property and persons on board, that it possesses
over the persons and property of its citizens and
ture piratical ships and pirates on the high seas, and to punish such criminals as the common enemies of the human race. By our law the slave trade is declared piracy, and such it must be deemed by the universal moral law. Man-stealing, with its murders and atrocities consequent upon it, is piracy in the eye of God. Any vessel, which gives probable cause or reasonable suspicion of piracy, or of being a slaver, might be searched by the commander of any ship of any nation. This is a necessary regulation of marine police, essential to the safety of the seas. If upon such search the suspected vessel is not found to be a pirate or slaver, she must be left unmolested to pursue her voyage. Such entry of a foreign vessel, though a mistake, when founded on probable cause, must be considered by the moral law of nations a marine trespass, that is excusable, if not justifiable. It is a case of danmum absolue injuria. Another exception must be allowed to our general principle. As a natural and necessary right of self-defence, we hold that belligerents have a right to capture any ship carrying arms, ammunition, munitions of war or soldiers to an enemy, and as a legitimate consequence we must admit a right of search limited as above as a belligerent right in all cases of probable cause or well grounded suspicion of such violation of neutrality. These are the only exceptions to our general principle which sound ethics suggest, or which the moral law of nations allows. President Madison lays down these principles in a Message to Congress of May 25th, 1813. He says: “It is obvious that no visit or search, or use of force for any purpose, on board the vessels of one independent power on the high seas, can, in war or peace, be sanctioned by the laws of another power.” The doctrine of the freedom of the seas was maintained to the same extent by President Madison in 1813, in giving his instructions, through Mr. Monroe, Secretary of State, to the American Plenipotentiaries for settling the terms of peace with Great Britain. In that document the President states that, “Impressment of our seamen and illegal blockades, as exemplified more particularly in the orders in council, were the principal causes of the war.” Alluding to the British pretence of seeking for their subjects, the President declares expatriation “a natural right,” and he says, “the great object, which we have to secure, in regard to impressment, is, “that our flag shall protect the crew.” Again he says, “that the practice is utterly repugnant to the law of nations, that it is supported by no treaty with any nation; and that a submission to it by the United States would be the abandon