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islands of the West Indies, and the Southern provinces of the United States, would become the asylum and depot of it." I gladly caught the opportu. nity of this accidental meeting* to say what could not have been otherwise than acceptable to the zeal for abolition. I stated the nature of our laws. I said, I felt sure that he would hear from me with pleasure that it was upwards of nine years since the traffic had been abolished throughout the Union; and that, so far had our acts of Congress carried the prohibition, that, to import even a single slave into any of the States, had, during the same period, been denounced as an offence, and subjected to unusually rigorous penalties of fine and imprisonment. His lordship admitted the prohibitions, but intimatcd fears lest we could not enforce them, alluding to the recent state of things at Amelia. In the end, he invited me to look into all their conven. tions with other Powers upon this subject, with a view to future conversa. tion, adding that he was well disposed himself to a proper concert of action between our two governments, for the more effectual cxtirpation of the traffic.
“I shall look into the conventions accordingly, and wait the renewal of the topic. Whether policy would dictate any concert, is a point upon which, not being instructed, I will not presume to give any opinion. But I hope I do not misjudge in thinking that, for the present, I am merely bound to listen to, without seeking, any further conversation. I will take care punctually to communicate, for the President's information, whaterer may be said to me, in like manner as my duty devolves it upon me to transmit this first sentiment, so cursorily thrown out by Lord Castlereagh. It will be understood, that, in adverting to our municipal prohibitions, I intended no advance to the point of national co-operation. It was barely for the sake of an incidental and gratuitous vindication, after a public remark, which, to say no more, was susceptible of unjust interpretations. On his allusion to Amelia Island, I reminded him that it was the very anxiety to prevent the illicit introduction of slaves that had formed a ruling motive with the President for breaking up, with the public force itself, the establishment at that place.”
Extract of a letter from Mr, Rush to the Secretary of State, April
6. He (Lord Castlereagh) next spoke of the slave trade. The government of Great Britain felt, he said, an increasing desire that the Government of the United States should lend itself to the measures of regulation going forward in Europe for its complete extirpation. These measures mean, in effect, a reciprocal submission to the right of search. He explained, by saying, that only to a limited number of the armed vessels of each of the mari, time states would a power to search be deputed, while the exercise of it would be strictly forbidden to all others. It was contemplated, he continu. . ed, to form, out of an association of these armed vessels, a species of natal police, to be stationed chiefly in the African seas, and from whose harmonious and co-operating efforts, the best results were anticipated. He added, that no peculiar structure or previous appearances in the vessel searched, no presence of irons, or other presumptions of criminal intention, nothing but the actual finding of slaves on board, was ever to authorize a seizure or
* With Lord Castlereagh,
detention. He said that they had lately pressed France upon the subject, and that there was no doubt of her eventual agreement. The recent vote in both her chambers, on the broad principle of abolition, he regarded as a full pledge of her ulterior steps.
“I replied, that I was sure that the President would listen with an ear the most liberal to whatever distinct proposals were made, more especially as the United States had been long awake, as well to the moral guilt as to the political and social evils of the traffic, and had, as was known, aimed against it the denunciations of their own laws. The distinct propositions, his Lordship gave me reason to think, would be made known, before long, through Mr. Bagot.”
Extract of a letter from Mr. Rush to Mr. Adams, dated London, June
. 24, 1818. "In two former despatches, I have mentioned what Lord Castlereagh has said to me relative to the slave trade. In my interview with him on the eleventh of this month, he spoke of it in a manner more formal and definitive.”
“ He first alluded to the late treaties concluded between Great Britain and several of the Powers of Europe upon this subject. Entering into conversation upon their particular nature and provisions, he said that the period had arrived when it was the wish of the British Government to invite the Government of the United States to join in the measures which Europe was so generally adopting for the more perfect abolition of this traffic, and that it was now his design to submit through me proposals to this effect. It will be perceived by my despatch No. 14,* that, at that period, it had been contemplated to make them through the channel of the English mission at Washington. What may have led to a change in this respect, his Lordship did not state, nor did I deem it material to inquire.”
“ It had occurred to him, he said, to make the proposals by sending me, accompanied by an official note, entire copies of all the treaties in question. They would best unfold the grounds and principles upon which a concert of action had already been settled by the States that were parties to them, and it was his intention to ask the accession of the United States upon grounds and principles that were similar. He added, that he would willingly receive my suggestions as to any other course that might strike me as better adapted to the object. I replied that none appeared to me more eligible, and that, whenever he would enclose me the treaties, I would lose no time in transmitting them for the consideration of the President.”
“It naturally occurred to me, during our conversation, that the detached and distant situation of the United States, if not other causes, might call for a modification in some parts of these instruments, admitting that the broad principle of concert met approbation. His Lordship upon this point was full in assurances that the British Government would be happy to listen to whatever modifications the Government of the United States might think fit to propose. Its anxious and only desire he said, was to see a convention formed that would prove free from all objection, and be conducive to the single and grand object to which both sides looked. He ended by expressing the belief which was felt, that the maritime co-operation of the United States would usefully contribute to the advancement of this great work of humanity."
•April 15, 1818,
- Nothing further passed necessary to the full understanding of the overture, beyond what the documents themselves and his Lordship's note are calculated to afford. To these I have therefore the honor to refer, as disclosing. in the most authentic and detailed manner, the whole views of the British Government upon this interesting subject.”
Lord Castlereagh to Mr. Rush.
June 20th, 1818. Sir: The distinguished share which the Government of the United States has, from the earliest period, borne in advancing the cause of abolition, makes the British Government desirous of submitting to their favorable consideration whatever may appear to them calculated to bring about the final accomplishment of this great work of humanity.
The laudable anxiety with which you personally interest yourself in whatever is passing upon this important subject, will have led you to perceive, that, with the exception of the crown of Portugal, all European States have now either actually prohibited the traffic in slaves to their subjects, or fixed an early period for its cessation, whilst Portugal has also renounced it to the North of the Equator. From May, 1820, there will not be a flag, which can legally cover this detested traffic to the North of the line; and there is reason to hope, that the Portuguese may also ere long be prepared to abandon it to the South of the Equator; but so long as some effectual concert is not established amongst the principal maritime Powers for preventing their respective flags from being made a cover for an illicit trade, there is too much reason to fear (whatever be the state of the law upon this subject) that the evil will continue to exist, and, in proportion as it assumes a contraband form, that it will be carried on under the most aggravating circumstances of cruelty and desolation.
It is from a deep conviction of this truth, founded upon experience, that the British Government, in all its negotiations upon this subject, has en. deavored to combine a system of alliance for the suppression of this most abusive practice, with the engagements which it has succeeded in lately contracting with the Governments of Spain and Portugal for the total or partial abolition of the slave trade. I have now the honor to enclose to you copies of the treaties which have been happily concluded with those Powers, together with the acts which have recently passed the Legislature for carrying the same into execution.
I have also the satisfaction to transmit to you a copy of a treaty which has been recently concluded with the King of the Netherlands, for the like purpose, though at too late a period in the session to admit of its provisions receiving the sanction of Parliament. I am induced the more particularly to call your attention to this convention, as it contains certain provisions which are calculated to limit, in some respects, the powers mutually conceded by the former treaties, in a manner which, without essentially weakening their force, may render them more acceptable to the contracting parties.
The intimate knowledge which you possess of this whole subject renders it unnecessary for me, in requesting you to bring these documents to the observation of your Government, to accompany them with any more detailed explanation. What I have earnestly to beg of you, is, to bring them under the serious consideration of the President; intimating to him the strong wish of the British Government that the exertions of the two States may be combined upon a somewhat similar principle, in order to put down this great moral disobedience, wherever it may be committed, to the laws of both countries. I am confident this cannot effectually be done, except by mutually conceding to each other's ships of war a qualified right of search, with a power of detaining the vessels of either State with slaves actually on board.
You will perceive in these conventions a studious, and, I trust, a successful attempt, to narrow and limit this power within due bounds, and to guard it against perversion. If the American Government is disposed to enter into a similar concert, and can suggest any further regulations, the better to obviate abuse, this Government will be most ready to listen to any suggestion of this nature—their only object being to contribute, by every effort in their power, to put an end to this disgraceful traffic.
I have the honor to be, with great truth,
Mr. Rush to Lord Castlereagh.
LONDON, June 23, 1818. My Lord: I have been honored with your Lordship's note of the twentieth of this month, enclosing copies of treaties recently concluded between this Government and the Governments of Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands, respectively, in relation to the slave trade, and designed to draw the attention of the Government of the United States to this subject, with a view to its co-operation upon principles similar to those held out in these treaties, in measures that may tend to the more complete and universal abolition of the traffic.
The United States, from an early day of their history, have regarded with deep and uniform abhorrence the existence of a traffic attended by such complications of misery and guilt. Its transcendent evils roused throughout all ranks a corresponding zeal for their extirpation. One step followed another, until humanity triumphed; and against its continuance, under any shape, by its own citizens, the most absolute prohibitions of their code have. for a period of more than ten years, been rigorously, and, it is hoped, beneficially levelled. Your Lordship will pardon me this allusion to the earnest efforts of the United States to put down the traffic within their own limits, falling in, as it merely does, with the tribute which you have been pleased to pay to their early exertions, in helping to dry up this prolific source of human wo.
Whether any causes may throw obstacles in the way of their uniting in that concert of external measures, in which Europe generally, and this nation in particular, are now so happily engaged, the more effectually to banish from the world this great enormity, I dare not, in the total absence of all instructions, presume to intimate; much less have I any opinion of my own to offer upon a subject so full of delicacy and interest. But it is still left to me to say, that I shall perform a duty peculiarly gratifying in trang. mitting, by the earliest opportunities, copies of your Lordship’s note, with the documents which accompanied it, to my Government; and I sufficiently know the permanent sensibility which pervades all its councils upon this subject to promise that the overture which the former embraces will receive from the President the full and anxious consideration due to its importance, and, above all, to the enlarged philanthropy on the part of this Government by which it has been dictated.
I have the honor to be,
Extract of a letter from the Secretary of State to Messrs. Gallatin and
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
November 2, 1818. "SLAVE TRADE: - The President desires that you would make known to the British Government his sensibility to the friendly spirit of confidence with which the treaties lately contracted by Great Britain with Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands, and the legislative measures of parliament founded upon them, have been communicated to this Government, and the invitation to the United States to join in the same or similar arrangements, has been given. He wishes you also to give the strongest assurances that the solicitude of the United States for the accomplishment of the common object, the total and final abolition of that odious traffic, continues with all the earnestness which has so long and so steadily distinguished the course of their policy in relation to it. As an evidence of this earnestness he requests you to communicate to them a copy of the act of Congress of the last session, in addition to the act of 1807, to prohibit the importation of slaves into the United States; (acts of the last session chap. 86, p. 81;) and to declare the readiness of this Government, within their constitutional powers, to adopt any further measures which experience may prove to be necessary for the purpose of attaining so desirable an end.
• But you will observe that, in examining the provisions of the treaties communicated by Lord Castlereagh, all their essential articles appear to be of a character not adaptable to the institutions or to the circumstances of the United States.
6. The power agreed to be reciprocally given to the officers of the ships of war of either party, to enter, search, capture, and carry into port for adjudication, the merchant vessels of the other, however qualified and restricted. is most essentially connected with the institution, by each treaty, of two mixed courts, one of which to reside in the external or colonial possessions of each of the two parties respectively. This part of the system is indispensable to give it that character of reciprocity, without which the right granted to the armed ships of one nation to search the merchant vessels of another, would be rather a mark of vassalage than of independence. But to this part of the system, the United States, having no colonies either on the coast of Africa or in the West Indies, cannot give effect.