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for contraband; effected by the belligerent, because he was armed; submitted to by the neutral, because he was defenceless; and acquiesced in by his sovereign, for the sake of preserving a remnant of peace, rather than become himself
a party to the war. Having thus, occasionally, been practised by all, as belligerents, and submitted to by all as neutrals, it has acquired the force of an usage, which, at the occurrence of every war, the belligerent may en. force or relinquish, and which the neutral may suffer or resist, at their respective options.
This search for, and seizure of, the property of an enemy in the vessel of a friend, is a relic of the barbarous warfare of barbarous ages; the cruel, and, for the most part, now exploded system of private war. As it concerns the enemy himself, it is inconsistent with that mitigated usage of modern wars, which respects the private property of individuals on the land. As relates to the neutral, it is a violation of his natural right to pursue, unmolested, his peaceful commercial intercourse with his friend. Invidious as is its character, in both these aspects, it has other essential characteristics, equally obnoxious. It is an uncontrolled exercise of authority, by a man in arms, over a man without defence; by an officer of one nation, over the citizen of another; by a man intent upon the annoyance of his enemy, responsible for the act of search to no tribunal, and always prompted to balance the disappointment of a fruitless search by the abusive exercise of his power, and to punish the neutral for the very clearness of his neutrality. It has, in short, all the features of unbridled power, stimulated by hostile and unsocial passions.
I forbear to enlarge upon the further extension of this practice, by referring to injuries which the United States experienced, when neutral, in a case of vital importance; because, in digesting a plan for the attainment of an object, which both nations have equally at he it, it is desirable to avoid every topic which may excite painful sensations on either side. I have adverted to the interest in question from necessity, it being one which could not be lost sight of in the present discussion.
Such being the view taken of the right of search, as recognised by the law of nations, and exercised by belligerent Powers, it is due to candor to state, that my Government has an insuperable objection to its extension by treaty, in any manner whatever, lest it might lead to consequences still more injurious to the United States, and especially in the circumstance alluded to. That the proposed extension will operate in time of peace, and derive its sanction from compact, present no inducements to its adoption. On the contrary, they form strong objections to it. Every extension of the right of search, on the principles of that right, is disapproved. If the freedom of the sea is abridged by compact for any new purpose, the example may lead to other changes. And if its operation is extended to a time of peace, as well as of war, a new system will be commenced for the dominion of the sea, which may eventually, especially by the abuses into which it may lead, confound all distinction of time and circumstances, of of war, and of rights applicable to each state.
The United States have, on great consideration, thought it most advisable to consider this trade as piracy, and to treat it as such. They have thought that the trade itself might, with great propriety, be placed in that class of offences; and that, by placing it there, we should more effectually accomplish the great object of suppressing the trade, than by any other measure which we could adopt.
To this measure, none of the objections which have been urged against the extension of the right of search, appear to be applicable. Piracy being an offence against the human race, has its well known incidents of capture and punishment by death, by the people and tribunals of every country. By making this trade piratical, it is the nature of the crime which draws after it the necessary consequences of capture and punishment. The United States have done this, by an act of Congress, in relation to themselves. They have also evinced their willingness, and expressed their desire, that the change should become general, by the consent of every other Power, whereby it would be made the law of nations. Till then, they are bound, by the injunctions of their Constitution, to execute it, so far as respects the punishment of their own citizens, by their own tribunals. They consider themselves, however, at liberty, until that consent is obtained, to co-operate to a certain extent with other Powers, to ensure a more complete effect to their respective acts; they placing themselves, severally, on the same ground, by legislative provisions. It is in this spirit, and for this purpose, that I have made to you the proposition under consideration.
By making the slave trade piratical, and attaching to it the punishment, as well as the odium, incident to that crime, it is believed that much has been done by the United States, to suppress it, in their vessels, and by their citizens. If your Government would unite in this poliey, it is not doubted that the happiest consequences would result from it. The example of Great Britain, in a manner so decisive, could not fail to attract the attention, and command the respect, of all her European neighbors. It is the opinion of the United States, that no measure, short of that proposed, will accomplish the object so much desired; and it is the earnest desire of my Government that the Government of his Britannic Majesty may co-operate in carrying it into effect. · I pray you, sir, to accept the renewed assurances of my distinguished consideration.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. The Right Hon. STRATFORD CANNING, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
from Great Britain.
Extract of a letter from Mr. Adams to Mr. Nelson, doted
“ DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
" WASHINGTON, 28th April, 1823. " A resolution of the House of Representatives, at the last session of Congress, requests the President to enter upon, and to prosecute, from time to time, such negotiations with the several maritime Powers of Europe and America as he may deem expedient, for the effectual abolition of the African slave trade, and its ultimate denunciation as piracy, under the law of nations, by the consent of the civilized world. You will take an early opportunity to make known this disposition to the Spanish Government; communicating to them copies of the fourth and fifth sections of the act of 3d March, 1819, which declares this traffic piratical when pursued by citizens of the United States; and you will express the willingness of the American Government to enter into negotiations for the purpose of declaring it so, by the common consent of nations."
Extract of a letter from Mr. Adams to Mr. Rodney, dated
« DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
• WASHINGTON, 17th May, 1823. “ A resolution of the House of Representatives, at the late session of Congress, requests the President of the United States to enter upon, and prosecute, from time to time, such negotiations with the several maritime Powers of Europe and America as he may deem expedient for the effectual abolition of the African slave trade, and its ultimate denunciation as piracy, under the law of nations, by the consent of the civilized world.
“ In pursuance of the object proposed by this resolution, you will communicate to the Government of Buenos Ayres, copies of the several acts of Congress for the suppression of the slave trade, of the 20th of April, 1818; (U. Š. Laws, vol. 6, page 325;) 3d March, 1819, (page 435;) and of 15th May, 1820, (page 529;) pointing their attention, particularly, to the fourth and fifth sections of the last, which subject to the penalties of piracy every citizen of the United States guilty of active participation in the African slave trade. The adoption of this principle in the legislative code of all the maritime nations, would, of itself, probably, suffice for the suppression of the trade. But, as it would yet not authorize the armed vessels of any one nation to capture those of another, engaged in the trade, a stipulation to that effect might be agreed to, by treaty, conditioned that the captor shall deliver over the captured party to the tribunals of his own country for trial; to which should be added, some guard of responsibility upon the capturing officer, to prevent the abusive exercise of his power.”
Extract from the General Instructions to Richard C. Anderson, appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Colombia, dated
« DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
6 WASHINGTON, May 27, 1824. "A resolution of the House of Representatives, at the late session of Congress, requests the President of the United States to enter upon), and to prosecute, from time to time, such negotiations with the several maritime Powers of Europe and America as he may deem expedient for the effectual abolition of the African slave trade, and its ultimate denunciation as piracy, under the law of nations, by the consent of the civilized world.
“In pursuance of this object, you will communicate to the Colombian Government copies of the several acts of our Congress for the suppression of the slave trade, of the 20th of April, 1818, (U. S. Laws, vol. vi. p. 325,) of 3d March, 1819, (p. 435,) and of 15th May, 1820, (p. 529,) pointing their attention particularly to the fourth and fifth sections, of the last, which subject to the penalties of piracy every citizen of the United States guilty of active participation in the African slave trade. The adoption of this principle in the legislative code of all the maritime nations, would, of itself, probably, suffice for the suppression of the trade; but, as it would yet not authorize the armed vessels of any one nation to capture those of another, engaged in the trade, a stipulation to that effect may be agreed to by the treaty, conditioned that the captor shall deliver over the captured party to the tribunals of his own country for trial; to which should be added some guard of responsibility upon the capturing officer, to prevent the abusive exercise of his powers."
Extract of a letter from Mr. Adams to Mr. Rush, dated
6 DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
" WASHINGTON, June 24, 1823. " A resolution of the House of Representatives, almost unanimously adopted, at the close of the last session of Congress, requested the President of the United States to enter upon, and to prosecute, from time to time, such negotiations with the several maritime Powers of Europe and America as he may deem expedient, for the effectual abolition of the African slave trade, and its ultimate denunciation as piracy, under the law of nations, by the consent of the civilized world.
" At the two preceding sessions of Congress, committees of the House had proposed a resolution, expressed in more general terins, that the President of the United States be requested to enter into such arrangements as he may deem suitable and proper, with one or more of the maritime Powers of Europe, for the effectual abolition of the African slave trade;' and this resolution had, in each case been the conclusion of a report, recommending that the United States should accede to the proposal of a mutual and qualified concession of the right of search. The sentiments of the committee were, in this respect, different from those which had been expressed by the Executive Department of the Government, in its previous correspondence with that of Great Britain. No decision, by the House of Representatives, was made upon these resolutions, proposed at the preceding sessions; but, upon the adoption of that which did pass, at the last session, it was well ascertained that the sentiments of the House, in regard to the right of search, coincided with those of the Executive: for they explicitly rejected an amendment which was moved to the resolution, and which would have expressed an opinion of the House favorable to the mutual concession of that
“ You have been fully informed of the correspondence between the Governments of the United States and of Great Britain, concerning the suppression of the slave trade, heretofore; and have been from time to time effectually instrumental to it yourself. You are aware of the grounds upon which the proposals, on the part of Great Britain, that the United States should accede to the stipulations similar to those which she had succeeded in obtaining from Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands, were on our part declined.
« The subject was resumed by the British minister residing here, Mr. S. Canning, a short time before the decease of the Marquis of Londonderry. It was suggested, that, since the total disappearance of the British and American flags, as well as of those of the nations which had consented to put the execution of their laws against the trade under the superintendence of British naval officers, it continued to flourish under that of France; that her laws, though in word and appearance equally severe in proscribing the traslic, were so remiss in the essential point of execution, that their effect was rather to encourage than to suppress it; and the American Government was urged to join in friendly representations to that of France, by instructing the minister of the United States at Paris to concur in those which the British ambassador at that court had been charged with making, to ensure a more vigilant fulfilment of the prohibitory laws.
This invitation, at that time given only in oral conference, was also declined, from an impres
sion that such a concurrence might give umbrage to the French Government, and tend rather to irritation, than to the accomplishment of the object for which it was desired. Mr. Gallatin was, nevertheless, instructed separately to bring the subject to the notice of the French Government; and did so, by a note communicating to them copies of the recent laws of the United States for the suppression of the trade, and particularly of that by which it has subjected every citizen of the United States, who, after the passage of the law, should be polluted with it, to the penalties of piracy.
“On the 29th of January last, Mr. Canning, in a letter to this Department, repeated the invitation of a joint and concurrent remonstrance, to be made by the British ambassador and our minister in France; and at the same time called, with great earnestness, upon the Government of the United . States, either to accede to the principle of the mutual and qualified right of search, emphatically pronounced, in his belief, to be the only effectual measure devised, or likely to be devised, for the accomplishment of the end, or to bring forward some other scheme of concert,' which he again declared the readiness of His Majesty's minister to examine with respect and candor, as a substitute for that of the British cabinet.
“ However discouraging this call for an alternative might be, thus coupled as it was with so decisive a declaration of belief, that no effective alternative had been, or was likely to be, devised, an opportunity was offered, in pursuance of the resolution of the House of Representatives, adopted at the close of the last session of Congress, for proposing a substitute, in our belief more effectual than the right of search could be, for the total and final suppression of this nefarious trade, and less liable either to objections of principle, or to abuses of practice.
“ This proposition was accordingly made, in my letter to Mr. Canning of 31st of March last, to which his letter of the 8th of April was the answer. In this answer Mr. Canning barely notices our proposition, to express an opinion that his Government will see in it nothing but an acknowledgment of the necessity of further and more effectual measures, and then proceeds with an elaborate review of all the objections which, in the previous correspondence between the two Governments, had been taken on our part to the British connected proposal of a mutual right of search, and a trial by mixed commissions. Our objection had been of two kinds; first, to the mixed commissions, as inconsistent with our Constitution; and secondly, to the right of search, as a dangerous precedent, liable to abuse, and odious to the feelings and recollections of our country.
“ In this letter of Mr. Canning, the proposal of trial by mixed commis. sions is formally withdrawn, and an alternative presented as practicable, one side of which only, and that the inadmissible side, is distinctly offered, namely, of trial by the courts of the captor. The other side of the alternative would, indeed, remove our constitutional objection, and with it might furnish the means of removing the principal inherent objection to the concession of the right of search, that by which the searching officer is under no responsible control for that act.
“ But, in our previous correspondence, our strong repugnance to the right of search had been adverted to merely as matter of fact, without tracing it to its source, or referring to its causes. The object of this forbearance had been to avoid all unnecessary collision with feelings and opinions which were not the same on the part of Great Britain and upon ours. They had been willingly left undiscussed. This letter of Mr. Canning, however,