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States, is declared to be, and is made punishable as for, piracy. And you will announce the readiness of the American Government, should it suit the views of his Majesty the King of the Netherlands, to enter upon a negotiation, for the purpose of carrying into effect the object of the resolution of the House of Representatives; namely, the denunciation of the African slave trade as piracy by the law of nations.
I am, with great respect, Sir,
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. ALEXANDER H. EVERETT, Esq.
Chargé d' Affaires U. $. to the Netherlands.
Extracts of a letter from Mr. Adams to General Dearborn, Envoy
Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States, at Lisbon, dated
6. DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
“ Washington, August 14, 1823. “At the close of the last session of Congress, a resolution was adopted, almost unanimously, by the House of Representatives-
66 That the President of the United States be requested 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.'
“A negotiation, for concerting measures of co-operation to effect the suppression of the African slave trade, had already for several years been pending with Great Britain; for which reason, a special instruction has been transmitted to Mr. Rush, together with a full power, and a draft of a convention to be proposed, in substance, to the British Government, and which he is authorized to conclude,
“Should this proposal meet the assent of the British Government, a necessary preliminary to the conclusion of the convention will be the passage of an act of Parliament, declaring the crime of African slave trading, when committed by British subjects, piracy. An act of Congress to that effect, as relates to citizens of the United States, has been in force, as you are aware, these three years. When the crime shal} have been constituted piracy by the statute law of both countries, each with reference to its own citizens or subjects, the principle offered by the projected convention is, that the armed vessels of each, specially empowered and instructed to that end, shall be authorized to capture slave trading vessels, assuming the flag of the other, and to deliver over the captured vessels to the public cruisers, or to the tribunals of their own country, for trial. This plan is offered as a substitute for that which was offered to us by Great Britain, which was predicated on the treaties already concluded between that Power and Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. The leading principle of these treaties was the mutual concession of the right of maritime search, in time of peace, to the armed vessels of both, cruising for slave traders, and a mixed court of commissioners and arbitrators, sitting in colonial possessions of the parties,
for the trial of the delinquents. To this system the United States have steadily declined to accede, for two reasons: one, because they had an invincible repugnance to subject their merchant vessels to the maritime search of foreign officers, in time of peace; and the other, because they could not subiect their citizens to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals, upon trials for offences against their laws.
" At the conferences of Verona, the British Government appears to have proposed that the African slave trade should be declared piracy by the law of nations. This is the same proposition recommended by the resolution of the House of Representatives of the United States. The ultimate object of the United States, and of Great Britain, therefore, is the same."
“ The negotiations suggested by the resolution of the House must depend materially, for their character and progress, with reference to other Powers, upon the event of that which is thus pending with Great Britain. The instructions to the Ministers of the United States in other countries have, therefore, been only of a general character.
“ Portugal is the only maritime Power of Europe which has not yet declared the African slave trade, without exception, unlawful. Her own internal situation has, perhaps, recently tended to diminish the influence of those interests, which have heretofore prevailed to delay and postpone her acquiescence in the principle of total proscription upon that trade: It is hoped that she will not much longer resist the predominating spirit of the age, calling so loudly upon the rulers of mankind effectually to put down the crying sin of that abominable traffic.
“In communicating to the Portuguese Government copies of the resolution of the House of Representatives, and of the laws of the United States prohibiting the slave trade, you will state, that the Government of the United States will be ready to enter, at any time, when it may suit the views of that of Portugal, upon the negotiation contemplated by the resolution.”
Mr. Rush to Mr. Adams, giving him the substance of a conversation
with Mr. Canning.
“ LONDON, October 9, 1823. « This latter subject,” (the slave trade) " he said it was his wish to take in hand with me himself, and thus keep it detached from the general negotiation.”
“Whilst we were speaking of the mode of taking up the question of the slave trade, I did not scruple to intimate, even at this early stage, that, unless his Government was prepared to say, that it would cause a statute to be passed, declaring the trade by its own subjects to be piracy, and rendering it punishable as such in manner as had been done by the United States, that I was not authorized to make any proposals upon the subject; that this, in fact, was the only basis upon which it fell within the intentions of my Government to attempt any arrangement of the subject whatever. I was happy to hear Mr. Canning say, in reply, that he did not, speaking from his first impressions, see any insurmountable obstacle, upon this score, to our proceeding with the subject.”
Extract from No. 11 of Mr. Sheldon, Chargé d'Affaires of the United States at Paris, to the Secretary of State.
“ Paris, October 16, 1823. “In the same conference, I also informed Mr. de Chateaubriand of the resolution of the House of Representatives respecting the slave trade, which made the subject of your despatch, No. 2, of the 14th of August. He repeated, in substance, what he had before stated to Mr. Gallatin in conversation, viz: that the French Government were sincerely desirous of putting an end to that trade, and were taking all the measures in their power to effect it, by pursuing offenders, and executing rigidly the laws now in existence; but that the public opinion, generally, in France, and more especially in the Chambers, was against it, owing not only to the prevalence of the colonial interest in the question, but particularly to the circumstances under which their stipulations with England upon this subject had been made: so tender were they upon this poini, that the proposition of adding new rigors to their laws, would be taken as a new concession to that Power, and, instead of being adopted in the Chambers, would be more likely to provoke an attempt to repeal the prohibitory measures already established, in order to rid themselves, in that way, of one of the charges imposed upon them by the foreign occupation; that time was necessary to wear away these impressions; and until that should have arrived, no Minister in France could be strong enough, upon this point, to do more than to watch over the execution of the laws already in force, which they were now disposed to do fully and faithfully, and which, if not entirely efficient, at least made the prosecution of the trade under the French flag hazardous and difficult.
“At present, therefore, it is not probable that France will consent to the proposal of the President, to enter upon the negotiation contemplated by the resolution of the House of Representatives. I have, however, made the proposal, in obedience to your directions; and have the honor to enclose a copy of the letter to Viscount de Chateaubriand, in which I have communicated to him that resolution.”
Extracts from No. 14 of Mr. Sheldon, Chargé d'Affaires, to the Secre
tary of State, dated
“ PARIS, November 5, 1823. “I have received answers from Viscount de Chateaubriand, on the subject of the new and more effective measures proposed against the slave trade.”
“On the subject of the slave irade, the answer manifests a disposition to adopt such new provisions as may be found necessary for its more effectual suppression; and this disposition really exists; but, after what Mr. de Chateaubriand had stated in conversation, and which I have already communicated, these new and more rigorous legislative provisions can only be introduced gradually, and some time will be required for effecting that purpose.
Mr. Sheldon to the Viscount de Chateaubriand.
PARIS, October 15, 1823. SIR: The Minister of the United States to this Court had, some time before he left Paris, transmitted to your Excellency copies of the laws successively adopted by the United States for the suppression of the slave trade. This communication was intended for the special purpose of making the French Government acquainted with the fact, that, so far as the United States were concerned, their legislation upon this subject had been ineffectual; that their laws had been violated, and the trade had continued, until they had denounced against it the highest punishment that a human tribunal can inflict. Since it has been declared to be piracy, and punishable with death, the American flag has no longer been soiled with it.
At the last session of Congress, that body, desirous that the co-operation of the other maritime Powers might be obtained in measures which we had found to be so effectual, formally requested the President to enter upon and prosecu te negotiations with those Powers, to that end. I have the honor to enclose a copy of the resolution adopted, with great unanimity, by the House of Representatives, upon that subject: and I am directed to declare that the President is ready to enter upon the negotiation contemplated by it with France, whenever it may be agreeable to her. Instructions to the same effect have been given to all the Ministers of the United States accredited to foreign Powers, and the favorable results which are hoped from them will be made known, at the earliest opportunities, to the French Government. It may be expected that a co-operation in measures equally effectual with those heretofore brought forward for the suppression of this trade, and not open to similar objections, will be generally and readily afforded. I beg to offer to your Excellency the renewed assurances, &c. &c.
PARIS, October 29, 1823. Sir: You did me the honor of writing me, on the 15th of this month, that the Government of the United States had only attained the effectual suppression of the slave trade by making it piracy, and by rendering those guilty of it liable to the same punishment. You have, at the same time, informed me that that Government was disposed to co-operate with the other Powers, by negotiations, to attain, by the same means, the complete and general abolition of this traffic.
The communication which you did me the honor to address to me cannot but deserve great consideration. I have requested the Keeper of the Seals to review with great care the laws and ordinances which have been made in France, for obtaining the abolition of the trade; to certify, after this examination, in what points they may be insufficient, and to propose, for completing them, in case of need, all the new dispositions which might accord with the independence and rights of the flag, and which might appear most proper to assure, in France, in an efficacious manner, the absolute cessation of a traffic so contrary to the rights of humanity. Accept, Sir, the assurances, &c.
Extract of a letter from Mr. Everett, Chargé d'Affaires, to the Secre
tary of State, dated
.“ BRUSSELS, November 20, 1823. “I have received from the Baron de Nagell a preliminary answer to my note of the 7th, upon the slave trade, of which I have the honor to enclose a copy."
BRUSSELS, November 7, 1893. Sir: I have the honor to subjoin to your Excellency, by order of my Government, a printed copy of the laws of the United States, which forbid their citizens to pursue the slave trade; also, a copy of the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 8th of February, 1823, by which the President is requested to concert, with the maritime powers of Europe and of America, the measures which may be most proper to effect the abolition of that trade, and to make it, by the universal consent of the civilized world, equivalent to the crime of piracy.
Your Excellency will remark, that it is already viewed in this light by the laws of the United States. The act of 15th March, 1820, declares, (sect. 4 and 5) that the persons subject to the jurisdiction of the Republic, who shall be engaged in the slave trade, either by seizing these unfortunates by force or fraud, and carrying them on board their vessels, or by keeping them there, and making them an object of traffic, shall be deemed pirates, and punished with death.
In fact, this pretended commerce bears all the characteristics of piracy: that is, of felony committed on the sea. And, as it has been denounced as a crime by the greater part of civilized nations, it ought to fall into the particular class of crimes to which it naturally belongs, and undergo the penalties which the usage and the law of nations impose upon them. An unanimuus declaration of the Christian Powers, to this effect, would inevitably produce the entire cessation of the trade. The public ships of each Power would then be authorized, by the law of nations, to cruise against the persons who might be engaged in it, without regard to the color of the fag with which they might pretend to be sheltered; whilst, if the trade is only regarded, in each country, as an offence against the municipal laws, it would be lawful for any one nation alone, by permitting it, to afford an asylum under its flag to the pirates of all the others.
The known character of the King, and the zeal which his Majesty has already displayed in his efforts to bring about the abolition of this infamous commerce, furnish a presumption to the Government of the United States, that that of the Low Countries will voluntarily co-operate with it to that effect. In communicating to your Excellency the subjoined papers, and in praying that you will be pleased to lay them before the King, I am charged to announce to him the desire of the President of the United States to obtain the co-operation of his Majesty in this work of justice, and to establish a coneert between the two Powers, in the measures which they may pursue, in