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This arises from the practice which exists with the commanders of single cruizers, the agents of trading companies, the masters of merchantmen, and others, making agreements, treaties, or, as the expression there is, “ books,” securing to themselves the exclusive trade with the tribe or district. A late instance of this unreasonable, and probably unauthorised, spirit of monopoly, has come to our notice near Cape Mount, where the native chief was induced to believe that he could not make a treaty with the American colonists, because he had made one with the commander of a British cruizer.
The same commander, it is asserted, has also threatened the Governor of the Colony at Monrovia, that he will make reprisals on the commerce of the colony, for exercising the usual jurisdiction at Bassa Cove, only two or three miles from their towns of Bassa and Edina.
Our knowledge of the commanders of British cruizers authorizes us to say, that their conduct is not usually thus unfriendly; but many instances show the propriety of guarding the interests of the fair dealer, who is generally opposed to the Šlave Trade..
Respecting these treaties or agreements with the tribes, we think that only the commanders of squadrons, or governors of colonies, should be permitted to make them. And with those over whom their Government cannot reasonably claim jurisdiction, treaties should not be made to the exclusion of other mercantile Powers trading on the coast, as has sometimes been done; and all treaties should contain a prohibition of the Slave Trade.
Commanders of squadrons and governors of colonies should be authorized and directed to seize every opportunity, and make use of all honourable means of inducing the native tribes, and particularly the Emperor of Ashantee, the Empress or Potentate at Loango, and other powerful nations, to enter into agreements to put a stop, as far as their influence extends, to the traffic; to seize and send home for trial all foreigners found on the coast, engaged in the Slave Trade, whether belonging to vessels or residing on the coast (for should these persons be permitted to remain, even after their stations are destroyed, they will erect others at points probably less assailable), and they should be enjoined to extend their protection to fair traders, though not of their own nation.
Commanders of squadrons and governors should be authorized and directed to destroy all slave factories within the reach of the force employed; and to proclaim to the tribes in the vicinity, that they must not be renewed, on pain of having their villages also destroyed. I
We have little knowledge of the details respecting the Slave Trade on the eastern coast of Africa; no instance has come to our knowledge of the use of the American flag there. From the best information we can obtain, it seems that a large trade is carried on by Portuguese colonies, the. Arab chiefs, and negro tribes. Their greatest markets are the Mahometan countries bordering on the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, the Portuguese East India Colonies, Bombay, and perhaps other British possessions in the East Indies; this part of the trade is probably in the hands of the Arabian vessels. '
Many are also shipped to Brazil, and some, perhaps, find their way to Cuba and Porto Rico.
In concluding this subject, we beg leave to remark that the field of operations to carry on the Slave Trade is so extensive, the profits so great, and the obstacles in the path so many, so various, so difficult, that every means should be used by civilized nations, and particularly by the United States and Great Britain, to effect the object; and we do not believe that any material good can result without an earnest and cordial co-operation.
We have, &c.,
Commanders U. S. Navy.
The Earl of Aberdeen to Mr. Fox.
Foreign Office, January 18, 1843. THE statement in the President's late Message to Congress relative to what is called the Right of Search, is of serious import : because to persons unacquainted with the facts, it would tend to convey the supposition, not only that the question of the right of search had been discussed by the Plenipotentiaries at Washington, but that Great Britain had made concessions on that point.
The President must well know that the right of search never formed the subject of discussion during the late negotiations, and that neither was any concession required by the United States Government, nor made by Great
Britaintine enga for the
The engagement entered into by the Parties, as inserted in the Treaty of Washington, for the suppression of the Slave Trade, was unconditionally proposed and agreed to.
Her Majesty's Government saw in it an attempt on the part of the Government of the United States, to give a practical effect to their repeated declarations against the African Slave Trade ; and they recognised with satisfaction an advance towards the humane and enlightened policy of all Christian States, from which they could not but anticipate much good.
Great Britain will scrupulously fulfil the conditions of this engagement; but from the principles which she has constantly asserted, and which are recorded in the correspondence between the Ministers of the United States in this country and myself, which took place in 1841, she has never receded, and will not recede. I have no intention to renew at present the discussion upon this subject. It is the less necessary to do so, because my last note has remained for more than a year without having received any answer; and because the Secretary of State has declared, more than once, to the British Plenipotentiary at Washington, that the explanations contained in it were entirely satisfactory.
The President may be assured that Great Britain will always respect the just claims of the United States. We make no pretension to interfere in any manner whatever, either by detention, visit or search, with vessels of the United States, known or believed to be such. But we still maintain, and will exercise when necessary, our right to ascertain the genuineness of any flag which a suspected vessel may bear. If in the exercise of this right, either from involuntary error, or in spite of every precaution, loss or injury should be sustained, a prompt reparation will be afforded; but that we should entertain for a single instant the notion of abandoning the right itself, would be quite impossible.
These observations have been rendered necessary by the late Message to Congress. The President is undoubtedly at liberty to address that Assembly, in any terms which he may think proper; but if the Queen's servants should not deem it expedient to advise Her Majesty also to advert to these topics in her Speech from the Throne, they desire, nevertheless, to hold themselves perfectly free, when questioned in Parliament, to give all such explanations as they may feel to be consistent with their duty, and necessary for the elucidation of the truth. . You will read this despatch to the United States Secretary of State, and should le desire it, you will furnish him with a copy.
: Mr. Fox to the Earl of Aberdeen.-(Received April 2.)
Washington, March 4, 1843. THE Session of Congress closed last night.
On the 28th ultimo the President transmitted a Special Message to the House of Representatives, upon the subject of the interpretation of the 8th
Article of the Treaty of the 9th of August, with respect to the disputed Right of Visit of American vessels.
Annexed to the President's Message are the following documents :--first, a Report from Mr. Webster, reciting the substance of a part of your Lordship's despatch to me of the 18th of January of this year, which, according to your Lordship’s directions, I had read to Mr. Webster : secondly, extracts of correspondence between Mr. Everett and Mr. Webster; and thirdly, a copy of your Lordship's official note to Mr. Everett, of the 20th of December, 1841, together with his brief acknowledgment of the receipt of the same. Your Lordship's note to Mr. Everett, though long since published in the newspapers of this country, had not before been officially communicated to Congress.
I have the honour herewith to inclose a printed copy of the above Message, with the documents annexed.
Inclosure in No. 6.
No. 1.—Message from the President of the United States, transmitting a report from
the Secretary of State in answer to the resolution of the House of the 22nd of February, 1843.
[February 28, 1843. Read, and laid upon the table.]
To the House of Representatives :
IN compliance with the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 22d instant, requesting me to communicate to the House " whatever correspondence or communication may have been received from the British Government respecting the President's construction of the late British Treaty concluded at Washington, as it concerns an alleged right to visit American vessels," I herewith transinit a report made to me by the Secretary of State.
I have also thought proper to communicate copies of Lord Aberdeen's letter of the 20th December, 1841, to Mr. Everett; Mr. Everett's letter of the 23d December in reply thereto; and extracts from several letters of Mr. Everett to the Secretary of State.
I cannot forego the expression of my regret at the apparent purport of a part of Lord Aberdeen's despatch to Mr. Fox. I had cherished the hope that all possibility of misunderstanding as to the true construction of the 8th article of the Treaty lately concluded between Great Britain and the United States was precluded by the plain and well-weighed language in which it is expressed The desire of both Governments is to put an end as speedily as possible to the slave trade ; and that desire, I need scarcely add, is as strongly and as sincerely felt by the United States as it can be by Great Britain. Yet it must not be forgotten that the trade, though now universally reprobated, was, up to a late period, prosecuted by all who chose to engage in it; and there were unfortunately but very few Christian powers whose subjects were not permitted, and even encouraged to share in the profits of what was regarded as a perfectly legitimate commerce. It originated at a period long before the United States had become independent, and was carried on within our borders, in opposition to the most earnest remonstrances and expostulations of some of the colonies in which it was most actively prosecuted. Those engaged in it were as little liable to inquiry or interruption as any others. Its character, thus fixed by common consent and general practice, could only be changed by the positive assent of each and every nation, expressed either in the form of municipal law or conventional arrangement. The United States led the way in efforts to suppress it. They claimed no right to dictate to others, but they resolved, without waiting for the co-operation of other powers, to prohibit it to their own citizens, and to visit its perpetration by them with condign punishment. I may safely affirm that it never occurred to this Government that any new maritime right accrued to it from the position it had thus assumed in regard to the Slave Trade. If, before our laws for its suppression, the flag of every nation might traverse the ocean unquestioned by our cruisers, this freedom was not, in our opinion, in the least abridged by our municipal legislation. Any other doctrine, it is plain, would subject to an arbitrary and ever-varying system of maritime police, adopted at will by the great naval Power for the time. being, the trade of the world in any places or in any articles which such Power might see fit to prohibit to its own subjects or citizens. A principle of this kind could scarcely be acknowledged, without subjecting commerce to the risk of constant and harassing vexations.
The attempt to justify such a pretension from the right to visit and detain ships upon reasonable suspicion of piracy, would deservedly be exposed to universal condemnation, since it would be an attempt to convert an established rule of maritime law, incorporated as a principle into the international code by the consent of all nations, into a rule and principle adopted by a single nation, and enforced only by its assumed authority. To seize and detain a ship upon suspicion of piracy, with probable cause and in good faith, affords no just ground either for complaint on the part of the nation whose flag she bears, or claim of indemnity on the part of the owner. The universal law sanctions, and the common good requires, the existence of such a rule. The right, under such circumstances, not only to visit and detain, but to search a ship, is a perfect right, and involves neither responsibility nor indemnity. But, with this single exception, no nation has, in time of peace, any authority to detain the ships of another upon the high seas, on any pretext whatever, beyond the limits of her territorial jurisdiction. And such, I am happy to find, is substantially the doctrine of Great Britain herself, in her most recent official declarations, and even in those now communicated to the House. These declarations may well lead us to doubt whether the apparent difference between the two Governments is not rather one of definition than of principle. Not only is the right of search, properly so called, disclaimed by Great Britain, but even that of mere visit and inquiry is asserted with qualifications inconsistent with the idea of a perfect right.
In the despatch of Lord Aberdeen to Mr. Everett of the 20th of December, 1841, as also in that just received by the British Minister in this country, made to Mr. Fox, his Lordship declares that if, in spite of all the precaution which shall be used to prevent such occurrences, an American ship, by reason of any visit or detention by a British cruizer, “should suffer loss and injury, it would be followed by prompt and ample remuneration;" and in order to make more manifest her intentions in this respect, Lord Aberdeen, in the despatch of the 20th of December, makes known to Mr. Everett the nature of the instructions given to the British cruisers. These are such as, if faithfully observed, would enable the British Government to approximate the standard of a fair indemnity. That Government has in several cases fulfilled her promises in this particular, by making adequate reparation for damage done to our commerce. It seems obvious to remark, that a right which is only to be exercised under such restrictions and precautions, and risk, in case of any assignable damage, to be followed by the consequences of a tresspass, can scarcely be considered anything more than a privilege asked for, and either conceded or withheld on the usual principles of international comity.
The principles laid down in Lord Aberdeen's despatches, and the assurances of indemnity therein held out, although the utmost reliance was placed on the good faith of the British Government, were not regarded by the Executive as a sufficient security against the abuses which Lord Aberdeen admitted might arise in even the most cautious and moderate exercise of their new maritime police; and therefore, in my Message at the opening of the last session, I set forth the views entertained by the Executive on this subject, and substantially affirmed both our inclination and ability to enforce our own laws, protect our flag from abuse, and acquit ourselves of all our duties and obligations on the high seas. In view of these assertions, the Treaty of Washington was negotiated, and, upon consultation with the British negotiator as to the quantum of force necessary to be employed in order to attain these objects, the result to which the most deliberate estimate led was embodied in the eighth article of the Treaty.
Such were my views at the time of negotiating that Treaty, and such, in my opinion, is its plain and fair interpretation. I regarded the eighth article as removing all possible pretext, on the ground of mere necessity, to visit and detain our ships upon the African coast because of any alleged abuse of our flag by slave traders of other nations. We had taken upon ourselves the burden of preventing any such abuse, by stipulating to furnish an armed force regarded by both the high contracting parties as sufficient to accomplish that object.
Denying, as we did and do, all color of right to exercise any such general police over the flags of independent nations, we did not demand of Great Britain any formal renunciation of her pretension; still less had we the idea of yielding anything ourselves in that respect. We chose to make a practical settlement of the question. This we owed to what we had already done upon this subject. The honor of the country called for it; the honor of its flag demanded that it should not be used by others to cover an iniquitous traffic. This Government, I am very sure, has both the inclination and the ability to do this; and, if need be, it will not content itself with a fleet of eighty guns, but sooner than any foreign Government shall exercise the province of executing its laws and fulfilling its obligations, the highest of which is to protect its flag alike from abuse or insult, it would, I doubt not, put in requisition for that purpose its whole naval power. The purpose of this Government is faithfully to fulfil the Treaty on its part, and it will not permit itself to doubt that Great Britain will comply with it on hers. In this way, peace will best be preserved, and the most amicable relations maintained between the two Countries. Washington, February 27, 1843.
No. 2.- Mr. Webster to the President of the United States.
Department of State,
Washington, February, 1843. THE Secretary of State, to whom has been referred a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 22d instant, requesting that the President of the United States “ be requested to communicate to that House, if not in his opinion improper, whatever correspondence or communication may have been received from the British Government, respecting the President's construction of the late British Treaty, concluded at Washington, as it concerns an alleged right to visit American vessels,” has the honor to report to the President that Mr. Fox, Her Britannic Majesty's envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, came to the Department of State on the 24th instant, and informed the Secretary that he had received from Lord Aberdeen, Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a despatch, under date of the 18th of January, which he was directed to read to the Secretary of State of the United States. The substance of the despatch was, that there was a statement in a paragraph of the President's message to Congress, at the opening of the present session, of serious import, because, to persons unacquainted with the facts, it would tend to convey the supposition, not only that the question of the right of search had been disavowed by the plenipotentiary at Washington, but that Great Britain had made concessions on that point.
That the President knew that the right of search never formed the subject of discussion during the late negotiation, and that neither was any concession required by the United States Government, nor made by Great
That the engagement entered into by the parties to the Treaty of Washington, for suppressing the African slave trade, was unconditionally proposed and agreed to.
That the British Government saw in it an attempt, on the part of the Government of the United States, to give a practical effect to their repeated declarations against that trade, and recognised with satisfaction an advance towards the humane and enlightened policy of all Christian states, from which they anticipated much good. That Great Britain would scrupulously fulfil the conditions of this engagement; but that from the principles which she has constantly asserted, and which are recorded in the correspondence between the Ministers of the United States in England and herself, in 1841, England has not receded and would not recede. That he had no intention to renew, at present, the discussion upon the subject. That his last note was yet unanswered. That the President might be assured that Great Britain would always respect the just claims of the United States. That the British Government made no pretension to interfere, in any manner whatever, either by detention, visit, or search, with vessels of the United States, known or believed to be such ; but that it still maintained, and would exercise when necessary, its own right to ascertain the