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'Phat the individuals charged with the piracy can plead no national character in bar of such jurisdiction, whether taken on the high seas or on the African coast.
If they be pirates, they are “hostes humani generis.” They are under the protection of no flag, and the verification of the fact of piracy by sufficient evidence brings them at once within the reach of the first criminal tribunal of competent authority before whom they may be brought.
It seems equally unnecessary to have recourse to so new a system for arriving at a qualified and guarded right of visit.
In this, as in the former instance, the simplest means will be found the best, and the simplest will generally be found to consist in some modification of what the established practice of nations has for ages sanctioned.
Right of visit is known and submitted to by all nations in time of war. The belligerent is authorized to visit the neutral, and even to detain upon adequate cause.
If the right of visit be to exist at all, and that it must exist, at least upon the coast of Africa, in some shape, or to some extent, seems to be fully admitted by the Russian Memoir, it is infinitely better it should exist in the form of a conventional, but mitigated regulation of the established practice of nations, for the due administration of which every government is responsible, than that it should be confided to a new institution, which, to be neutral, must be irresponsible, and whose very composition would place it wholly beyond the reach of control.
These observations apply to the period when all nations shall have abolished the trade; but, why should the Russian, Austrian, and Prussian Governments unnecessarily postpone the taking some measure of this nature for an indefinite period, and until Portugal shall have universally abolished?
Have they not more than two-thirds of the whole coast of Africa, upon which it might at once operate, and as beneficially as if that much-wished-for era was arrived!
Has not Portugal herself given unanswerable proofs upon this point by conceding the right of visit north of the equator, where the abolition has been completed, as well by her, as now by Spain and all other Powers?
Perhaps it is because no instance can be quoted that any slave trader, under either the Russian, Austrian, or Prussian flags, has yet appeared on the coast of Africa, that these Powers, from a sentiment of delicacy towards States more directly interested both in the local and maritime question, have felt some reluctance to take a lead in giving their sanction to this principle.
The Russian Memoir seems expressly to withhold, or rather to deky adherence, until there is reason to presume that a general concurrence is attainable; but surely in all such cases the most certain mode of obtaining a general concurrence is to augment the ranks of the concurring parties.
The United States and France are probably alluded to as the dissenting Powers; but even in those States, how much inight not the chances of success have been improved, had the three Powers in question followed the example of those that have already adopted this system; and how narrowed would have been the chance of fraud, had the sphere of the alliance been thus extended by their accession? It is still to be hoped that their present doubts will yield to more mature reflection upon the nature of the proposition. The first instance in which any of their flags should be made the cover of abuse, the British plenipotentiaries are satisfied would be the signal for their vindicating its character, by taking an immediate and decisive step
on this subject; but, without waiting for such a stimulus, they trust that the minds of those illustrious sovereigns remain still open to every suggestion on this subject, which can improve the chances of general success; and that the opinion hitherto gizon on the part of their respective cabine's, will form no obstacle to the adoption, on their part, of that measure; whatever it may he, which, under all the circumstances of the case, shall appear to them most cffectual to the suppression of the mischief.
In adverting to the memoir which has been presented to the conference hy the plenipotentiaries of France, the British plenipotentiaries are ready to bear their testimony to the spirit of fairness with which the subject has been met; and to the auspicious protection which the cause of abolition has progressively received from his most Christian majesty.
The French plenipotentiary has candidly conceded, ist. That the proposed measure cannot be considered as any infraction of the law of nations. That it confirms, on the contrary, that law, inasmuch as it seeks to obtain a new power as a conventional exception from the admitted principles of the general law.
2dly. That it can be regarded as no exclusive surrender of the maritime rights of any particular State, as its provisions are strictly reciprocal; and for an object in which all feel and avow that they have a common interest
. 2liy. That the principle of reciprocity may be still further guarded, by confining the right of visit, as in the treaty with Holland, to an equal and limited number of the ships of war of cach State.
4thly. That every endeavor has been made, strictly to limit the cxercise of the power to the immediate purpose for which it is granted; and by suitable regulations to guard it against abuse.
5thly. That, in order still further to distinguish this system from the ordinary right of visit, which every beiligerent is entitled to exercise in time of war, it has been proposed to confine its operations, if desired, to the coasts of Africa, and to a limited distance from those coasts.
The objections on the part of France are of a more general description, and such as it is hoped time will in itself serve to remove; and 1st, As to the objection which seems to weigh so strongly, viz: That the measure, if now taken, might be falsely regarded by the French nation as a concession imposed upon their Government by the Powers of Europe, as the price of the evacuation of their territory. It is impossible to contend in argument against such a clusion; but it may be observed, that, had the other Powers been pressed to adopt the arrangement in concert with France, it does not seem possible that such an invidious interpretation could have been given to so gencral and so bencrolent a measure; but this happily is one of those objcctions which a short time must serve to remove.
The second objection is, that there is, as it vere, some moral incompetency in the French nation to conform themselves to this measure; that what is felt by the crowns of Spain and Portugal, and of the Netherlands, to be no disparagement of the honor of their flag, nor any inconyenient surrender of the commercial righris and interests of their people, would in France work nothing but a sense of humiliation and discontent.
With great deference to the authority upon which this conclusion is state, the plenipotentiarics of Great Britain cannot refrain from indulging the hope, that, although, in France, there may at first sight exist prejudices against this measure, when received in an exaggerated shape, and without the necessary explanations; that, although there may be also a feeling with respect to possible inconveniences, which, notwithstanding every excrtion on the part of the respective Governments, might occasionally attend it in the execution; yet, they confidently persuade themselves, that a people so enlightened would not fail cordially to answer to an appeal made by their Government to the generosity of their feelings upon such a point; and that the French nation would never shrink from a competition with the British or any other nation, in promoting whatever might conduce to an end in which the great interests of humanity are involved. It is true that Great Britain and France have been regarded as rivals, as well as neighboring nations; but, if they have had occasionally the misfortune io contend against each other in arms, nothing luas arisen in the result of those contests which should create a sense of inferiority on either side. Both nations have well sustained their national honor, and both have learnt to respect each other. Why then should the French people feel that as derogatory to their dignity, which is viewed by the British nation in so different a light? Let us rather hope, that, after their long and common sufferings in war, both nations will feel ihe strong interest they have in drawing closer those ties of friendship which now happily unite them; and in cultivating those relations in peace, which may render their intercourse useful to each other, and to the world. What ohject more worthy of their common councils and efforts than to give peace to Africa; and could their rivalship take a more ennobling and auspicious character?
Should a doubt or murmur, at the first aspect, arise among the people of France, they may be told, that four of the most considerable of the maritime Powers of the world have cheerfully united their exertions in this system, for the deliverance of Africa; they will learn that the British people, so sensitively alive as they are known to be to every circumstance that might impede their commercial pursuits, or expose the national flag to an unusual interference, have betrayed no apprehension in the instance before us; not a single remonstrancc has been heard, either in Parliament, or from any com
mercial body in the empire, not even from any individual merchant or navi: gator. If the doubt should turn upon the prejudice which such a measure
might occasion to the French commercial interests on the coast of Africa, they will on inquiry find, that, if France wishes to preserve and to improve her legitimate commerce on that coast, she cannot pursue a more effectual course, than by uniting her efforts to those of other Powers for putting down the illicit slave trader, who is now become an armed freebooter, combining the plunder of merchant vessels, of whatever nation, with his illegal speculations in slaves.
If the idea should occur, that French merchant ships, frequenting that const, may experienee interruption and delays by such visits; that officers may possibly abuse their trust, and that disputes may occur between their subjects and those of foreign Powers, let them reduce this objection calmly to its true value; let them estimate it according to the extent of trade on that coast, and the chances of such accidents occurring. Notwithstanding every precaution taken by the respective Governments, let them set this evil, taken at the highest coraputation, in competition with the great moral question, ivhether a whole continent, in order to avoid these minor inconveniences, hall be suffered to groan under all the aggravated horrors of an illicit slave sade; and let the Government of his most Christian majesty judge whether. it is possible that the French Government would hesitatc in the decision to which it would wish to come, upon such an alternative.
instance of abuse should occur for a moment to occasion regret, it will be remembered that this is the price, and how inconsiderable a price, which an humane and enlightened people are deliberately willing to pay for the attainment of such an object; it will be looked at in contrast with the African villages that would have been plandered; with the wars that would have been waged in the interior of that unhappy continent; with the number of human victims that would have been sacrificed to the cupidity of the slave trader, if civilized nations had not combined their exertions for their protection.
The French memoir argues against the priciple of subjecting the property of French subjects to any other jurisdiction than that of their own tribunals; but it will appear that this practice is by no means unusual; in time of war, and for the security of the belligerent, this is constantly the case.
The neutral is, in all cases, amenable for the alleged infractions of the rights of the belligerent in matters of blockade, contraband of war, &c. to the tribunals of the belligerent, not to his own or to any mixed tribunal.
If it is said that this is not a case of war, but a regulation introduced in peace, and for the first time; the obvious answer is, does the case warrant the innovation?
If it does, the novelty of the practice ought to form no decisive objection to its adoption; but it is by no means true that this is the first instance, in time of peace, where the property of the subject has been brought under a jurisdiction other than the ordinary tribunals of his own State. Claims,both of a private and public nature, have frequently, by conventional laws, been made the object of such a proceeding, which is made to operate as a species of arbitration. Can we quote a more decisive example than the two conventions which, in November, 1815, referred the private claims upon the French Government, immense as they were in amount, to the decision of a mixed commission similarly constituted?
It is also to be observed, that the subject gains a singular advantage by having his case disposed of before such a commission, which he would not obtain were he to have to proceed either in his own courts, or in that of the capturing Power, for the restitution of his property, namely, that the commission, in deciding upon his cause, not only has the power of pronouncing upon his wrongs, but can give him, by its decision, ample damages, for the discharge of which the State of the capturing ship is made answerable; whereas, in an ordinary case of capture, he would have a dilatory and expensive suit to carry on, against, perhaps, an insolvent captor.
Having noticed the principal objections brought forward in the French memoir, which they venture to persuade themselves are not insurmountable, the British plenipotentiaries have observed, with satisfaction, the exertions which the French Government have made, and are still prepared to make, for combatting this evil, at least as far as it can be alleged to subsist within their own limits, and to be carried on by French subjects; but they feel persuaded that the Government of his most Christian majesty will take a more enlarged view of their power of doing good, and that they will be disposed to extend the sphere of their activity to the suppression of the mischief wherever it can be reached by their exertions.
The British Governmentalso does full justice to the manner in which the French Government has, on all occasions, sought from them such information as might enable them the better to enforce the law of abolition. They bear testimony with pleasure not only to the sincerity of their exertions, but to the arrangements lately made, by stationing a naval force on the coast of Afsica, for the more effectual suppression of the slave trade, so far as it is car. ried on by French ships and subjects. They also view, with the highest satisfaction, the determination now announced of introducing into all the French colonies a registry of slaves. All these beneficent arrangements may be expected to operate powerfully, so far as the mischief has decidedly a French character but until all the principal Powers can agree to have, as against the illicit slave trader, at least on the coast of Africa, but one common flag, and co-operating force, they will not have gone to the full extent of their means to effectuate their purpose, in conformity to their declarations at Vienna. With these observations the British plenipotentiaries will com clude their statement, submitting it to the candid examination of the several cabinets.
It would be a great satisfaction to them to be assured, that the representations which they have felt it their duty to make, were likely to receive their earliest consideration, and that the ministers of the several Powers in London might expect to receive such farther instructions as might enable them, without loss of time, to resume their labors with effect; it being humbly submitted that the final act, which the sovereigns are about to solicit from his majesty the king of Portugal, is not an indispensable perliminary towards establishing, by common consent, an the coast of Africa, at least North of the equator, some efficient system for the suppression of the illicit traffic in slaves, which is, at this moment, carried on to the most alarming, extent, and under the most aggravating circumstances, such as loudly to call for the special and authoritative interference of the illustrious sovereigns to whom these remarks are respectfully submitted.
SIXTH ENCLOSURE IN No. 11.
Projet of a letter to His Most Faithful Majesty. SIR, MY BROTHER:
At the period of the Congress of Vienna, the voice of religion, and the groans of suffering humanity, obtained the most consoling triumph. The world contemplated the near prospect of the termination of a scourge which has long desolated Africa; and your majesty has justly acquired the right to the eternal gratitude of nations in proclaiming, in concert with your allies, the principle of universal abolition of the trade in slaves. Since then, the acts coucluded at Paris in 1815, and the happy issue of the several negotia. tions devoted to the progressive execution of this measure, have strengthened the
generous hopes of the age, and have predicted the full accomplishment of the transaction which they have solemnly sanctioned.
If the results of the conference, of Aix-la-Chapelle, which consummate the pacification, and guaranty the prosperity of Europe, still leave a wish, it is that of seeing ensured the final triumph of the declaration of the 8th of February, 1815, by the means of an act decreeing the abolition of the slave trade in all parts, and for ever; that my allies and myself be not permitted to separate without turning our confident regards towards the Powers to whom the Supreme Arbiter of the destines of the earth has reserved the glory of putting an end to the afflictions of an unfortunate population.