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Extract of a letter from Captain John D. Henley to the Secretary of
the Navy, dated
U. S. Ship John ADAMS,
Amelia Sound, January 24th, 1818. " I yesterday detained the English brig Neptune, of London, for a violation of the slave act. By her papers it appears that she cleared from Jamaica for this port, with a small quantity of rum, and eight convict slaves, sentenced to transportation for various offences. It is evident that their object was to emuggle them into the State of Geogia, thus making a Botany Bay of the United States. I shall send her to Savannah for trial.
Extract of a letter from Captain John D. Henley to the Secretary of
the Navy, dated
U. S. Ship John Adams,
Cumberland Sound, March 17th, 1828. “It would be gratifying to me to know how far the commissions granted by Aury or M'Gregor, to vessels evidently commanded and m
ned by citizens of the United States, are to be respected. I have not the smallest doubt, from the situation those pirates have fixed upon for their rendezvous, that the goods found in their prizes will be disposed of principally in the United States, and that the part which may consist of slaves will be smuggled into Georgia, as many of the inhabitants are too much inclined to afford every facility to this species of illicit trade.”
Extract from the instructions of the Navy Department to the Command
ers of all United States' vessels cruising in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, &c.
“ You have also enclosed such parts of several acts of Congress, prohibiting the importation of slaves into any ports or places within the jurisdiction of the United States, as are necessary to point out to you your duty and authority under these laws; and it is expected and required of you by the President, that a strict and vigilant attention be paid to the direction therein contained, that, if possible, this inhuman and disgraceful traffic may be suppressed.
“ By the act of the 20th of April, 1818, you will perceive that it is made unlawful to import or bring, in any manner whatsoever, into the United States or Territories thereof, from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of color, with intent to hold, sell, or dispose of such person as a slave, or to be held to service.
“ By this act it is also made unlawful for any citizen of the United States, or other person, to build, equip, load, fit, or otherwise prepare, any ship or vessel, in any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, or to cause any such ship or vessel to sail from any port or place whatsoever, within the jurisdiction of the United States, for the purpose of procuring and transporting any such slaves to any port or place whatever. And any ship or vessel employed in such importation of slaves, or so built, fitted out, or prepared, is liable to be seized or forfeited. And by the act of the 3d of March, 1819, the President is authorized to employ any of the armed vessels of the United States to cruise in such places as he may think proper, where he may judge attempts may be made to carry on the slave trade by citizens or residents of the United States, in contravention of the acts of Congress prohibiting the same; and to instruct such armed vessels to seize, take, and bring into any port of the United States, to be proceeded against according to law, all ships or vessels of the United States, wheresoever found, which may have taken on board, or which may be intended for the purpose of taking on board, or of transporting, or may have transported, any negro, mulatto, or person of color, in violation of any of the provisions of the act of the 20th April, 1818, above referred to, or in violation of any other act or acts prohibiting the traffic in slaves.
“ You will perceive from the generality of the provisions in these laws, you are authorized to take, and bring in, all ships or vessels of the United States, which may have been in any manner employed, or intended to be employed, in the slave trade; or any other vessel offending against the provisions of any of the laws you have enclosed. You will particularly notice the two provisos to the first section of the act of 1819; the first of which directs in what manner you are to keep and dispose of the slaves which may be found on board of any ship or vessel seized by you. If brought within the United States, they are to be delivered to the Marshal of the District where brought in, and transmit the evidence of such delivery to this Department. Upon the capture, therefore, of any vessel having slaves on board, you will immediately proceed to the Island of Sherbro, on the coast of Africa, and deliver such slaves to the agent appointed by the President to receive them, pursuant to the provisions of the act, or to any other agent so appointed, at any other place on the coast of Africa. The second proviso relates to the disposition of the officers and crews of such vessels so captured by you. Great vigilance will be expected from you in the safekeeping of all such officers and crews, until they shall be handed over to the civil authority to be proceeded against according to law.”
“ P. S. No provision having as yet been made for the reception of slaves upon the coast of Africa, you will, for the present, and until ordered otherwise, consider the foregoing orders, relative to the disposition of such slaves as you may capture, so far modified, that you will deliver them on Smith's Island, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, to such agent as may be appointed by the President to receive them there.”
SIXTEENTH CONGRESS_FIRST SESSION.
MAY 8, 1820.
Mr. MERCER, from the committee, consisting of Mr. Hemphill, Mr.
Mercer, Mr. Strong, of New York, Mr. Edwards, of Pensylvania, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Lathrop, and Mr. Abbott, to whom was referred, at the commencement of the present session of Congress, so much of the President's Message as relates to the slave trade,
made the following report:
The Committee on the Slave Trade, to whom was referred the memorial of the President and Board of Managers of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States, have, according to order, had under consideration the several subjects therein embraced, and report:
That the American Society was instituted in the City of Washington on the 28th of December, 1816, for the benevolent purpose of affording to the free people of color of the United States the means of establishing one or more independent colonies on the Western coast of Africa. After ascertaining, by a mission to that continent, and other preliminary inquiries, that their object is practicable, the Society requests of the Congress of the United States a charter of incorporation, and such other legislative aid as their enterprise may be thought to merit and require.
The memorialists anticipate from its success consequences the most beneficial to the free people of color themselves, to the several States in which they at present reside, and to that continent which is to be the seat of their future establishment. Passing by the foundation of these anticipations, which will be seen in the annual reports of the Society and their former memorials, the attention of the committee has been particularly drawn to the connexion which the memorialists have traced between their
and the policy of the recent act of Congress for the more effectual abolition of the African slave trade.
Experience has demonstrated that this detestable traffic can be no where so successfully assailed as on the coast upon which it originates. Not only does the collection and embarkation of its unnatural cargoes consume more time than their subsequent distribution and sale in the market for which they are destined, but the African coast frequented by the slave ships is indented with so few commodious or accessible harbors, that, notwithstanding its great extent, it could be guarded by the vigilance of a few active
If to these be added colonies of civilized blacks, planted in commanding situations along that coast, no slave ship could possibly escape detection; and thus the security, as well as the enhanced profit, which now cherishes this illicit trade, would be effectually counteracted. Such colonies, by diffusing a taste for legitimate commerce among the native tribes of that fruitful continent, would gradually destroy among them, also, the only incentive of a traffic which has hitherto rendered all African labor in
and spread desolation over one of the most beautiful regions of the globe. The colonies and the armed vessels employed in watching the African coast, while they co-operated alike in the cause of humanity, would afford to each other mutual succor.
There is a single consideration, however, added to the preceding view of this subject, which appears to your committee, of itself, conclusive of the tendency of the views of the memorialists to further the operation of the act of the 3d of March, 1819. That act not only revokes the authority antecedently given to the several State and Territorial Governments to dispose as they pleased of those Africans who might be liberated by the tribunals of the United States, but authorizes and requires the President to restore them to their native country. The unavoidable consequence of this just and humane provision, is, to require some preparation to be made for their temporary succor on being landed upon the African shore; and no preparation can prove so congenial to its own object, or so economical as regards the Government charged with this charitable duty, as that which would be found in a colony of the free people of color of the United States. Sustained by the recommendations of numerous societies in every part of the United States, and the approving voice of the Legislative Assemblies of several States, without inquiring into any other tendency of the object of the memorialists, your committee do not hesitate to pronounce it deserving of the countenance and support of the General Govenment. The extent to which these shall be carried is a question not so easily determined.
The memorialists do not ask the Government to assume the jurisdiction of the territory, or to become in any degree whatever responsible for the future safety or tranquillity of the contemplated colony. They have prudently thought that its external peace and security would be most effectually guarded by an appeal, in its behalf, to the philanthropy of the civilized world, and to that sentiment of retributive justice with which all Christendom is at present animated towards a much injured continent.
Of the constitutional power of the General Government to grant the limited aid contemplated by the accompanying bills and resolutions, your committee presume there can exist no shadow of doubt; and they leave it to a period of greater national prosperity to determine how far the authority of Congress, the resources of the National Government, and the welfare and happiness of the United States, will warrant or require its extension.
Your committee are solemnly enjoined by the peculiar object of their trust, and invited by the suggestions of the memorialists, to inquire into the defects of the existing laws against the African slave trade. So long as it is in the power
of the United States to provide additional restraints upon this odious traffic, they cannot be withheld, consistently with the justice and honor of the nation.
Congress has heretofore marked with decided reprobation the authors and abettors of this iniquitous commerce, in every form which it assumes; from the inception of its unrighteous purpose in America, through all the subsequent stages of its progress, to its final consummation: the outward voyage, the cruel seizure, and forcible abduction of the unfortunate African from his native home, and the fraudulent transfer of the property thus acquired. It may, however, be questioned if a proper discrimination of their relative guilt has entered into the measure of punishment annexed to these criminal acts.
Your committee cannot perceive wherein the offence of kidnapping an unoffending inhabitant of a foreign country; of chaining him down for a series of days, weeks, and months, amidst the dying and the dead, to the pestilential hold of a slave ship; of consigning him, if he chance to live out the voyage, to perpetual slavery in a remote and unknown land, differs in malignity from piracy, or why a milder punishment should follow the one than the other crime.
On the other hand, the purchase of the unfortunate African, after his enlargement from the floating dungeon which wafts him to the foreign market, however criminal in itself, and yet more in its tendency to encourage this abominable traffic, yields in atrocity to the violent seizure of his person, his sudden and unprepared separation from his family, his kindred, his friends, and his country, followed by all the horrors of the middle passage. Are there not united in this offence all that is most iniquitous in theft, most daring in robbery, and cruel in murder? Its consequences to the victim, if he survive, to the country which receives him, and to that from which he is torn, are alike disastrous. If the internal wars of Africa, and their desolating effect, may be imputed to the slave trade, (and that the greater part of them must, cannot now be questioned) this crime, considered in its remote as well as its proximate consequences, is the very darkest in the whole catalogue of human iniquities; and its authors should be considered as hostes humani generis.
In proposing to the House of Representatives to make such part of this offence as occurs upon the ocean piracy, your committee are animated, not by the desire of manifesting to the world the horror with which it is viewed by the American people, but by the confident expectation of promoting, by this example, its more certain punishment by all nations, and its absolute and final extinction.
May it not be believed, that, when the whole civilized world shall have denounced the slave trade as piracy, it will become as unfrequent as any other species of that offence against the law of nations? Is it unreasonable to suppose that negotiation will, with greater facility, introduce into that law such a provision as is here proposed, when it shall have been already incorporated in the separate code of each State!
The maritime powers of the Christian world have, at length, concurred in pronouncing sentence of condemnation against the traffic. The United States, having led the way in forming this decree, owe it to themselves not to follow the rest of mankind in promoting its vigorous execution.
If it should be objected that the legislation of Congress would be partial, and its benefit, for a time at least, local, it may be replied, that the constitutional power of the Government has already been exercised in defining the crime of píracy, in accordance with similar analogies to that which the committee have sought to trace between this general offence against the peace of nations and ihe slave trade. many
of the foreign treaties, as well as in the laws of the United States, cxamples are to be found of piracies, which are not cognizable as such by the tribunals of all nations. Such is the unavoidable consequence of any exercise of the authority of Congress to define and punish this crime. The definition and the punishment
can bind the United States alone.