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genuineness of any flag which a suspected vessel might bear; that if in the exercise of this right, either from involuntary error, or in spite of every precaution, loss or injury should be sustained, a prompt reparation would be afforded ; but that it should entertain, for a single instant, the notion of abandoning the right itself, would be quite impossible.
That these observations had been rendered necessary by the Message to Congress. That the President is undoubtedly at liberty to address that assembly in any terms which he may think proper; but if the Queen's servants should not deem it expedient to advise Her Majesty also to advert to these topics in her speech from the throne, they desired, nevertheless, to hold themselves perfectly free, when questioned in Parliament, to give all such explanations as they might feel to be consistent with their duty, and necessary for the elucidation of the truth.
The paper having been read, and its contents understood, Mr. Fox was told, in reply, that the subject would be taken into consideration, and that a despatch relative to it would be sent, at an early day, to the American minister in London, who would have instructions to read it to Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
No. 3.—Mr. Everett to Mr. Webster.
Legation of the United States, (Extract.)
London, December 28, 1841. I RECEIVED on the 23rd instant a note from Lord Aberdeen, on the African seizures, in reply to one addressed to him by Mr. Stevenson, in the last hours of his residence in London, and which, as it appears, did not reach Lord Aberdeen's hands till Mr. Stevenson had left London. As some time must elapse before I could give a detailed answer to this communication, I thought it best at once to acknowledge its receipt, to express my satisfaction at its dispassionate tone, and to announce the purpose of replying to it at some future period. The President, I think, will be struck with the marked change in the tone of the present Ministry, as manifested in this note and a former one addressed by Lord Aberdeen to Mr. Stevenson, contrasted with the last communication from Lord Palmerston, on the same subject. The difference is particularly apparent in Lord Aberdeen's letter to me of the 20th instant. Not only is the claim of Great Britain relative to the right of detaining suspicious vessels stated in a far less exceptionable manner than it had been done by Lord Palmerston, but Lord Aberdeen expressly declines being responsible for the language used by his predecessor.
You will observe that Lord Aberdeen disclaims, in a more distinct manner than it has ever been done, all right to search, detain, or in any manner interfere with American vessels, whether engaged in the Slave Trade or not; that he limits the pretensions of this Government to boarding vessels strongly suspected of being those of other nations unwarrantably assuming the American flag ; and promises, where this right has been abused to the injury of American vessels, that full and ample reparation shall be made. As the United States have never claimed that their flag should furnish protection to any vessels but their own, and as very strict injunctions have been forwarded to the cruisers on the coast of Africa, not to interfere with American vessels, I am inclined to think that cases of interruption will become much less frequent; and, if this Government should redeem in good faith Lord Aberdeen's promise of reparation where injury has been done, I am disposed to hope that this subject of irritation will in a great measure cease to exist. I shall not engage in the discussion of the general principles as now avowed and explained by this Government, till I hear from you on the subject, and know what the President's views are; but I shall confine myself chiefly to urging the claim for redress in the cases of the Tigris, Sea Mew, Jones, and William and Francis, which were the last submitted to my predecessor, and on which no answer has been received from this Government.
Among the reasons for supposing that fewer causes of complaint will hereafter arise, is the circumstance that the seizures of last year took place under the agreement of Commodore Tucker, the British commander on the African station and the officer in command of the American cruiser. I find nothing on the files of the Legation showing what order, if any, has been taken by our Government on the subject of this arrangement. It is taken for granted by this Government, that this agreement is disavowed by that of the United States; and since February last, positive orders have been given to the British cruisers in the African seas not to interfere with American ships, even though known to be engaged in the Slave Trade. I shall await with much anxiety the instructions of the President on this important subject.
No. 4.-Mr. Everett to Mr. Webster.
Legation of the United States, (Extracts.)
London, December 31, 1841. AT a late hour on the evening of the 26th, I received a note from the Earl of Aberdeen, requesting an interview for the following day, when I met him at the Foreign Office, agreeably to the appointment. After one or two general remarks upon the difficulty of bringing about an adjustment of the points of controversy between the Governments, by a continuance of the discussions hitherto carried on, he said that Her Majesty's Government had determined to take a decisive step towards that end, by sending a special minister to the United States, with a full power to make a final settlement of all matters in dispute. * * *
This step was determined on from a sincere and earnest desire to bring the matter so long in controversy to an amicable settlement; and if, as he did not doubt, the same disposition existed at Washington, he thought this step afforded the most favorable, and, indeed, the only means of carrying it into effect. In the choice of the individual for the mission, Lord Aberdeen added, that he had been mainly influenced by a desire to select a person who would be peculiarly acceptable in the United States, as well as eminently qualified for the trust, and that he persuaded himself he had found one who, in both respects, was all that could be wished. He then named Lord Ashburton, who had consented to undertake the mission.
Although this communication was of course wholly unexpected to me, I felt no hesitation in expressing the great satisfaction with which I received it. I assured Lord Aberdeen, that the President had nothing more at heart than an honorable adjustment of the matters in discussion between the two countries; that I was persuaded a more acceptable selection of a person for the important mission proposed could not have been made; and that I anticipated the happiest results from this overture.
Lord Aberdeen rejoined, that it was more than an overture; that Lord Ashburton would go with full powers to make a definitive arrangement on every point in discussion between the two countries. He was aware of the difficulty of some of them, particularly what had incorrectly been called the right of search, which he deemed the most important of all; but he was willing to confide this and all other matters in controversy to Lord Ashburton's discretion. He added, that they should have been quite willing to come to a general arrangement here, but they supposed I had not full powers for such a purpose.
This measure being determined on, Lord Aberdeen said he presumed it would be hardly worth while for us to continue the correspondence here, on matters in dispute between the Governments. He, of course, was quite willing to consider and reply to any statement I might think proper to make on any subject; but, pending the negotiations that might take place at Washington, he supposed no benefit could result from a simultaneous discussion here.
No. 5.—Lord Aberdeen to Mr. Everett.
Foreign Office, December 20, 1841. THE Undersigned, Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has the honour of addressing to Mr. Everett, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States, the observations which he feels called upon to make, in answer to the note of Mr. Stevenson, dated on the 21st of October.
As that communication only reached the hands of the Undersigned on the
day after the departure of Mr. Stevenson from London, on his return - to America, and as there has since been no Minister or Chargé d'Affaires from the United States resident in this country, the Undersigned has looked with some anxiety for the arrival of Mr. Everett, in order that he might be enabled to renew his diplomatic intercourse with an accredited representative of the Republic. Had the Undersigned entertained no other purpose than to controvert the arguments of Mr. Stevenson, or to fortify his own in treating of the matter which has formed the subject of their correspondence, he would have experienced little impatience; but, as it is his desire to clear up all doubt and to remove misapprehension, he feels that he cannot too early avail himself of the presence of Mr. Everett at his post to bring to his knowledge the true state of the question at issue.
The Undersigned agrees with Mr. Stevenson in the importance of arriving at a clear understanding of the matter really in dispute. This ought to be the first object in the differences of States as well as of individuals; and, happily, it is often the first step to the reconciliation of the parties. In the present case this understanding is doubly essential, because a continuance of mistake and error may be productive of the most serious consequences.
Mr. Stevenson persists in contending that the British Government assert a right which is equivalent to the claim of searching American vessels in time of peace. In prvof of this, Mr. Stevenson refers to a passage in a former note of Viscount Palmerston, addressed to himself, against which he strongly protests, and the doctrine contained in which he says that the Undersigned is understood to affirm.
Now, it is not the intention of the Undersigned to inquire into the precise import and force of the expressions of Viscount Palmerston. These might have been easily explained to Mr. Stevenson by their author, at the time they were written; but the Undersigned must request that his doctrines upon this subject, and those of the Government of which he is the organ, may be judged of exclusively from his own declarations.
The Undersigned again renounces, as he has already done in the most explicit terms, any right on the part of the British Government, to search American vessels in time of peace. The right of search, except when specially conceded by Treaty, is a purely belligerent right, and can have no existence on the high seas during peace. The Undersigned apprehends, however, that the right of search is not confined to the verification of the nationality of the vessel, but also extends to the object of the voyage and the nature of the cargo. The sole purpose of the British cruisers is to ascertain whether the vessels they meet with are really American or not. The right asserted has, in truth, no resemblance to the right of search, either in principle or in practice. It is simply a right to satisfy the party who has a legitimate interest in knowing the truth, that the vessel actually is what her colours announce. This right we concede as freely as we exercise. The British cruisers are not instructed to detain American vessels, under any circumstances whatever; on the contrary, they are ordered to abstain from all interference with them, be they slavers or otherwise. But where reasonable suspicion exists that the American flag has been abused, for the purpose of covering the vessel of another nation, it would appear scarcely credible, had it not been made manifest by the repeated protestations of their representative, that the Government of the United States, which has stigmatized and abolished the trade itself, should object to the adoption of such means as are indispensably necessary for ascertaining the truth.
The Undersigned had contended, in his former note, that the legitimate inference from the arguments of Mr. Stevenson would practically extend even to the sanction of piracy, when the persons engaged in it should think fit to shelter themselves under the flag of the United States. Mr. Stevenson observes, that this is a misapprehension on the part of the Undersigned ; and he declares that, in denying the right of interfering with vessels under the American flag, he intended to limit his objection to vessels bona fide American, and not to those ·belonging to nations who might fraudulently have assumed the flag of the United States. But it appears to the Undersigned that his former statement is by no means satisfactorily controverted by the declaration of Mr. Stevenson. How is this bona fide to be proved ? Must not Mr. Stevenson either be prepared to maintain that the flag alone is sufficient evidence of the nationality of the vessel, which, in the face of his own repeated admissions, he cannot do; or must
he not confess that the application of his arguments would really afford protection to every lawless and piratical enterprise ? .
The Undersigeed had also expressed his belief, that the practice was general, of ascertaining by visit the real character of any vessel on the high seas, against which there should exist reasonable ground of suspicion. Mr. Stevenson denies this; and he asks what other nation than Great Britain had ever asserted, or attempted to exercise, such a right? In answer to this question, the Undersigned can at once refer to the avowed and constant practice of the United States, whose cruisers, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, by the admission of their public journals, are notoriously in the habit of examining all suspicious vessels, whether sailing under the English flag, or any other. In whose eyes are these vessels suspicious ? Doubtless in those of the commanders of the American cruisers. But, in truth, this right is quite as important to the United States as to Great Britain ; nor is it easy to conceive how the maritime intercourse of mankind could safely be carried on without such a check.
It can scarcely be necessary to remind Mr. Everett that the right thus claimed by Great Britain is not exercised for any selfish purpose. It is asserted in the interest of humanity, and in mitigation of the sufferings of our fellow-men. The object has met with the concurrence of the whole civilised world, including the United States of America, and it ought to receive universal assistance and support.'
The Undersigned cannot abstain here from referring to the conduct of an honourable and zealous officer, commanding the naval force of the United States on the coast of Africa, who, relying on the sincere desire of his Government for the suppression of the Slave Trade, and sensible of the abuse of the American flag, entered into an engagement, on the 11th of March, 1840, with the officer in command of Her Majesty's cruisers on the same station, by which they mutually requested each other, and agreed to detain all vessels under American colours employed in the traffic. If found to be American property, such vessels were to be delivered over to the commander of any American cruiser on the station; or, if belonging to other nations, they were to be dealt with according to the treaties contracted by Her Majesty with the respective States. The Undersigned believes, and, indeed, after the statements of Mr. Stevenson, he regrets to be unable to doubt, that the conduct of this gallant officer, however natural and laudable in its object, has been disavowed by his Government.
It is not the intention of the Undersigned, at present, to advocate the justice and propriety of the mutual right of search, as conceded and regulated by treatv. or to weigh the reasons on account of which this proposal has been rejected by the Government of the United States. He took cccasion, in a former note, to observe that concessions sanctioned by Great Britain and France were not likely to be incompatible with the dignity and independence of any other State which should be disposed to follow their example. But the Undersigned begs now to inform Mr. Everett, that he has this day concluded a joint treaty with France, Austria, Russia, and Prussia, by which the mutual right of search, within certain latitudes, is fully and effectually established for ever. This is, in truth, a holy alliance, in which the Undersigned would have rejoiced to see the United States assume their proper place among the great Powers of Christendom-foremost in power, wealth, and civilization, and connected together in the cause of mercy and justice.
It is undoubtedly true, that this right may be abused, like every other which is delegated to many and different hands. It is possible that it may be exercised wantonly and vexatiously; and, should this be the case, it would not only call for remonstrance, but would justify resentment. This, however, is in the highest degree improbable ; and if, in spite of the utmost caution, an error should be committed, and any American vessel should suffer loss and injury, it would be followed by prompt and ample reparation. The Undersigned begs to repeat, that with American vessels, whatever be their destination, British cruisers have no pretension, in any manner, to interfere. Such vessels must be permitted. if engaged in it, to enjoy a monopoly of this unhallowed trade; but the British Government will never endure that the fraudulent use of the American flag shall extend the iniquity to other nations by whom it is abhorred, and who have entered into solemn treaties with this country for its entire suppression.
In order to prove to Mr. Everett the anxiety of Her Majesty's Government to prevent all reasonable grounds of complaint, the Undersigned believes that he cannot do better than to communicate to him the substance of those instructions under which the British cruisers act, in relation to American vessels, when employed on this service.
If, from the intelligence which the officer commanding Her Majesty's cruiser may have received, or from the manoeuvres of the vessel, or from other sufficient cause, he shall have reason to believe that, although bearing the American flag, the vessel does not belong to the United States, he is ordered, if the state of the wind and weather shall admit of it, to go a-head of the suspected vessel, after communicating his intention by hailing, and to drop a boat on board of her, to ascertain her nationality, without detaining her, if she shall prove to be really an American vessel. But, should this mode of visiting the vessel be impracticable, he is to require her to be brought to, for this purpose. The officer who boards the vessel is merely to satisfy himself of her nationality, by her papers or other proofs; and should she really be an American vessel, he will immediately quit her, offering, with the consent of her commander, to note on her papers the cause of suspecting her nationality, and the number of minutes she was detained (if detained at all) for the object in question. All the particulars are to be immediately entered on the log-books of the cruiser, and a full statement of them is to be sent, by the first opportunity, direct to England.
These are the precautions taken by Her Majesty's Government against the occurrence of abuse in the performance of this service; and they are ready to adopt any others which they may think more effectual for the purpose, and which shall, at the same time, be consistent with the attainment of the main object in view.
Mr. Stevenson has said that he had no wish to exempt the fraudulent use of the American flag from detection, and this being the case, the Undersigned is unwilling to believe that a Government like that of the United States, professing the same object and animated by the same motives as Great Britain, should seriously oppose themselves to every possible mode by which their own desire could be really accomplished.
The Undersigned avails himself of this occasion to convey to Mr. Everett the assurances of his distinguished consideration.
No. 6.-Mr. Everett to Lord Aberdeen.
Legation of the United States,
December 23, 1841. THE Undersigned, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, has the honor to acknowledge the reception of a communication from Lord Aberdeen, Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, bearing date the 20th instant, in reply to a note of Mr. Stevenson's of the 21st October.
The Undersigned will avail himself of an early opportunity of addressing some remarks to the Earl of Aberdeen on the very important topics treated in his note. In the mean time, the Undersigned begs leave to express his great satisfaction at the conciliatory and dispassionate tone of Lord Aberdeen's communication; from which the Undersigned augurs the happiest influence on the renewed discussion of the subject.
The Undersigned begs leave to renew to Lord Aberdeen the assurance of his distinguished consideration.
No. 7.—Mr. Webster to Mr. Everett.
Department of State, (Extract.)
Washington, January 29, 1842. BY the Britannia, arrrived at Boston, I have received your despatch of the 28th December, No. 4,) and your other despatch of the 31st of the same mouth, (No. 5,) with a postscript of the 3rd of January.
The necessity of returning an early answer to these communications (as the