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TO THE HISTORY OF THE SIXTEENTH CONGRESS.
COMPRISING THE MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS ORIGINATING DURING THAT CON.
GRESS, AND THE PUBLIC ACTS PASSED BY IT.
SUPPRESSION OF THE SLAVE TRADE.
Don Louis de Onis to the Secretary of State.
WASHINGTON, May 14, 1818. [Communicated to the House, January 5, 1821.] Sir: The introduction of negro slaves into
I communicate to the House of Representatives America was one of the earliest measures adopted a report from the Secretary of State, which, with by the august ancestors of the King my master, the papers accompanying it, contains all the in- for the improvement and prosperity of those vast formation in possession of the Executive, requested dominions, very shortly after their discovery. The by a resolution of the House of the 4th of Decem- total inaptitude of the Indians to various useful, ber, on the subject of the African slave trade. but painful labors, the result of their ignorance of
JAMES MONROE. all the conveniences of life, and the imperfect proWASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 1821.
gress in civil society, made it necessary to have recourse to strong and active laborers for breaking
up and cultivating the earth. With the double DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Jan. 4, 1821.
view of stimulating them to active exertion, and The Secretary of State, to whom has been re- of promoting the population of those countries, a ferred the resolution of the House of Representa- measure was resorted to by Spain, which, although tives, of the 4th ultimo, requesting the communi- repugnant to her feelings, is not to be considered cation to that House of any correspondence that as having originated the system of slavery, but as the President does not deem it inexpedient to dis- having materially alleviated the evils of that close, which may have existed between the Exec- which already existed, in consequence of a barutive of the United States and the Government barous practice of the Africans, upon saving the of any of the maritime Powers of Europe, in rela- lives of a considerable portion of the captives in tion to the African slave trade, has the honor of war, whom they formerly put to death. By the submitting copies of the papers requested by the introduction of this system, the negroes, far from resolution. With the exception of a note from suffering additional evils, or being subjected, while the late Spanish Minister, Onis, communicating a in a state of slavery, to a more painful life than copy of the treaty between Spain and Great Brit- when possessed of freedom in their own country, ain on this subject, the only Government of Eu- obtained the inestimable advantage of the knowlrope with whom there has been such correspond- edge of the true God, and of all the benefits attendence is that of Great Britain ; and these papers ant on civilization. contain all that has passed between them, on the The benevolent feelings of the sovereigns of subject, in writing. Since the arrival of Mr. Can- Spain did not, however, at any time permit their ning, various informal conferences between him subjects to carry on this trade, but by special liand the Secretary of State have been held, in cense; and in the years 1789, 1798, and on the which the proposals on the part of Great Britain 22d of April, 1804, certain limited periods were have been fully discussed, without effecting a re- fixed for the importation of slaves. Although the moval of the objections upon which the President last term had not expired when His Majesty our had, in the first instance, found himself under the lord Don Ferdinand the Seventh was restored to necessity of declining them. They have not yet the throne, of which a perfidious usurper had atterminated, nor have any written communications tempted to deprive him. His Majesty, on resumpassed on the subject, with the exception of the ing the reins of Government, soon perceived that note from Mr. Canning and the answer to it, here- those remote countries had become a prey to civil with submitted, both of a date subsequent to that feuds, and, in reflecting on the most effectual of the resolution of the House.
means of restoring order, and affording them all JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. the encouragement of which they are susceptible, 16th Con. 2d Sess.-42
Suppression of the Slave Trade.
His Majesty discovered that the numbers of the the traffic had been abolished throughout the native and free negroes had prodigiously increased Union; and that so far had our acts of Congress under the mild regimen of the Governinent, and carried the prohibition, that to import even a sinthe humane treatment of the Spanish slave owners; gle slave into any of the States, had, during the that the white population had also greatly in- same period, been denounced as an offence, and creased ; that the climate is not so noxious to them subjected to unusually rigorous penalties of fine as it was before the lands were cleared ; and, final- and imprisonment. His Lordship admitted the ly, that the advantages resulting to the inhabit- prohibitions, but intimated fears lest we could not ants of Africa, in being transported to cultivated enforce them, alluding to the recent state of things countries, are no longer so decided and exclusive, at Amelia. In the end, he invited me to look into since England and the United States have en- all their conventions with other Powers upon this gaged in the noble undertaking of civilizing them subject, with a view to future conversation, adding in their native country:
that he was well disposed himself to a proper conAll these considerations combining with the de- cert of action between our two Governments for sire entertained by His Majesty of co-operating the more effectual extirpation of the traffic. with the Powers of Europe, in putting an end to
"I shall look into the conventions accordingly, this traffic, which, if indefinitely continued, might and wait the renewal of the topic. Whether involve them all in the most serious evils, have policy would dictate any concert, is a point upon determined His Majesty to conclude a treaty with which, not being instructed, I will not presume to the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain give any opinion. But I hope I do not misjudge and Ireland, by which the abolition of the slave in thinking that, for the present, I am merely bound trade is stipulated and agreed on, under certain to listen to, without seeking any further conversaregulations, and I have received his commands to tion. I will take care punctually to communicate, deliver to the President a copy of the same, His for the President's information, whatever may be Majesty feeling confident that a measure so com said to me, in like manner as my duty devolves it pletely in harmony with the sentiments of this upon me to transmit this first sentiment, so cursoGovernment, and of all the inhabitants of this rily thrown out by Lord Castlereagh. It will be Republic, cannot fail to be agreeable to him. understood, that, in adverting to our municipal
In the discharge of this satisfactory duty, I now prohibitions, I intended no advance to the point transmit you the aforesaid copy of the treaty, of national co-operation. It was barely for the which I request you will be pleased to lay before sake of an incidental and gratuitous vindication, the President, and I have the honor to renew the after public remark, which, to say no more, was assurances of my distinguished respect.
susceptible of unjust interpretation. On his alluGod preserve you many years,
sion to Amelia Island, I reminded him that it was LUIS DE ONIS. the very anxiety to prevent the illicit introduction
of slaves that had formed a ruling motive with - Extract of a letter from Mr, Rush to the Secretary of force itself, the establishment at that place."
the President for breaking up, with the public State, dated Feb. 18, 1818. “ You will probably have perceived, by the proceedings in the House of Commons, that treaties E.xlract of a letter from Mr. Rush to the Secretary of have been formed between this Government and
State. both Spain and Portugal, securing, as far as may
APRIL 15, 1818. be done by treaty, the final abolition, after a spec- "He (Lord Castlereagh) next spoke of the slave ified time, not very remote, of the slave trade. trade. The Government of Great Britain felt, he Thus, is a last hand to be put to the work of said, an increasing desire that the Government of America, whose legislators led the way, with the United States should lend itself to the measEurope against them, in this transcendant moral ures of regulation going forward in Europe for its reform. But it is a triumph which as little the complete extirpation. These measures mean,
in Courts as the public of Europe seem willing in effect, a reciprocal submission to the right of any shape to acknowledge. The palm is claimed search. He explained by saying, that only to a by others. America is even placed in fault. In limited number of the armed vessels of each of his speech on the Spanish treaty, delivered in the the maritime States would a power to search be House of Commons on the 8th instant, Lord Cas-deputed, while the exercise of it would be strictly tlereagh observed, that it was in vain for Britain forbidden to all others. It was contemplated, he alone to shut the door of her colonies against the continued, to form, out of an association of these slave trade; for that, unless there was a concert of armed vessels, a species of naral police, to be exclusion, the other islands of the West Indies, stationed chiefly in the African seas, and from
and the southern provinces of the United States, whose harmonious and co-operating efforts the would become the asylum and depot of it.' best results were anticipated.He added, that do gladly caught the opportunity of this accidental peculiar structure, or previous appearances in the meeting (with Lord Castlereagh] to say what could | vessel searched, no presence of irons, or other prenot have been otherwise than acceptable to the sumptions of criminal intention; nothing but the zeal for abolition. I stated the nature of our laws. actual finding of slaves on board was ever to auI said, I felt sure that he would hear from me with thorize a seizure or detention. He said that they pleasure, that it was upwards of nine years since had lately pressed France upon the subject, and
Suppression of the Slave Trade.
that there was no doubt of her eventual agree-only desire, he said, was, to see a convention ment. The recent vote, in both her Chambers, formed that would prove free from all objection, on the broad principle of abolition, he regarded and be conducive to the single and grand object as a full pledge of her ulterior steps.
to which both sides looked. He ended by ex"I replied, that I was sure that the President pressing the belief which was felt, that the mariwould listen, with an ear the most liberal, to what-time co-operation of the United States would ever distinct proposals were made, more especially usefully contribute to the advancement of this as the United States had been long awake, as well great work of humanity.” to the moral guilt as to the political and social "Nothing further passed necessary to the full evils of the traffic, and had, as was known, aimed understanding of the overture, beyond what the against it the denunciations of their own laws. documents themselves and his Lordship’s note, are The distinct propositions, his Lordship gave me calculated to afford. To these I have, therefore, reason to think, would be made known before long, the honor to refer, as disclosing, in the most authrough Mr. Bagot.”
thentic and detailed manner, the whole views of the British Government upon this interesting sub
ject." Extract of a letter from Mr. Rush to Mr. Adams, dated London, June 24, 1818.
Lord Castlereagh to Mr. Rush. “In two former despatches I have mentioned what Lord Castlereagh has said to me relative to
Foreign OFFICE, June 20, 1818. the slave trade. In my interview with him on Sir: The distinguished share which the Govthe eleventh of this month, he spoke of it in a ernment of the United States has, from the earliest manner more formal and definitive.”
period, borne in advancing the cause of abolition, “ He first alluded to the late treaties concluded makes the British Government desirous of subbetween Great Britain and several of the Powers mitting to their favorable consideration whatever of Europe upon this subject. Entering into con- may appear to them calculated to bring about the versation upon their particular nature and pro- final accomplishment of this great work of huvisions, he said, that the period had arrived when manity. it was the wish of the British Government to in- The lauda bleanxiety with which you personally vite the Government of the United States to join interest yourself in whatever is passing upon this in the measures which Europe was so generally important subject, will have led you to perceive adopting, for the more perfect abolition of this that, with the exception of the Crown of Portugal, traffic; and that it was now his design to submit, all European States have now either actually prothrough me, proposals to this effect. It will be hibited the traffic in slaves to their subjects, or perceived by my despatch, No. 14, (April 15, 1818,) fixed an early period for its cessation, whilst Portugal that, at that period, it had been contemplated to has also renounced it to the north of the equator. make them through the channel of the English From May, 1820, there will not be a flag which mission at Washington. What may have led to can legally cover this detested traffic to the north a change in this respect, his Lordship did not of the line, and there is reason to hope that the state, nor did I deem it material to inquire. Portugese may also, ere long, be prepared to aban
“It had occurred to him, he said, to make the don it to the south of the equator; but, so long as proposals by sending me, accompanied by an offi- some effectual concert is not established amongst cial note, entire copies of all the treaties in ques- the principal maritime Powers, for preventing tion. They would best unfold the grounds and their respective flags from being made a covert for principles upon which a concert of action had an illicit trade, there is too much reason to fear already been settled by the States that were par-|(whatever be the state of the law upon this subties to them, and it was his intention to ask the ject) that the evil will continue to exist, and, in accession of the United States upon grounds and proportion as it assumes a contraband form, that principles that were similar. He added, that he it will be carried on under the most aggravating would willingly receive my suggestions as to any circumstances of cruelty and desolation. other course that might strike me as better adapted It is from a deep conviction of this truth, founded to the object. I replied, that none appeared to me upon experience, that the British Government, in more eligible, and that whenever he would enclose all its negotiations upon this subject, has endeavme the treaties, I would lose no time in trans- ored to combine a system of alliance for the supmitting them, for the consideration of the Presi- pression of this most abusive practice, with the dent."
engagements which it has succeeded in lately con“It naturally occurred to me, during our con- tracting with the Government of Spain and Porversation, that the detached and distant situation tugal for the total or partial abolition of the slave of the United States, if not other causes, might trade. I have now the honor to enclose to you call for a modification in some parts of these in- copies of the treaties which have been happily struments, admitting that the broad principle of concluded with those Powers, together with the concert met approbation. His Lordship upon this acts which have recently passed the Legislature, point was full in assurances, that the British Gov- for carrying the same into execution. ernment would be happy to listen to whatever I have also the satisfaction to transmit to you a modifications the Government of the United copy of a treaty which has been recently concluded States might think fit to propose. Its anxious and with the King of the Netherlands, for the like purSuppression of the Slave Trade.
pose, though at too late a period in the session to levelled. Your Lordship will pardon me this aladmit of its provisions receiving the sanction of lusion to the earnest efforts of the United States to Parliament. I am induced the more particularly put down the traffic within their own limits, fallto call your attention to this convention, as it ing in, as it merely does, with the tribute which contains provisions which are calculated to limit, you have been pleased to pay to their early exerin some respects, the power mutually conceded tions in helping to dry up this prolific source of by the former treaties, in a manner which, without human woe. essentially weakening their force, renders them Whether any causes may throw obstacles in the more acceptable to the contracting parties. way of their uniting in that concert of external
The intimate knowledge which you possess of measures, in which Europe generally, and this this whole subject renders it unnecessary for me, nation in particular, are now so happily engaged, in requesting you to bring those documents to the the more effectually to banish from the world this observation of your Government, to accompany great enormity, I dare not, in the total absence of them with any more detailed explanation. What all instructions, presume to intimate, much less I have earnestly to beg of you is, to bring them have I any opinion of my own to offer upon a subunder the serious consideration of the President, ject so full of delicacy and interest. But it is still intimating to him the strong wish of the British left to me to say, that I shall perform a duty pecuGovernment that the exertions of the two States liarly gratifying in transmitting, by the earliest may be combined upon a somewhat similar prin- opportunities, copies of your Lordship's note, with ciple, in order to put down this great moral diso- the documents which accompanied it, to my Gorbedience, wherever it may be committed, to the ernment, and I sufficiently know the permanent laws of both countries. I'am confident this can- sensibility which pervades all its councils upon not effectually be done, except by mutually con- this subject, to promise that the overture, which ceding to each other's ships of war a qualified right the former embraces, will receive, from the Presof search, with a power of detaining the vessels of ident, the full and anxious consideration due to its either State, with slaves actually on board. importance, and, above all, to the enlarged philan
You will perceive in these conventions a studi- thropy on the part of this Government, by which ous, and, I trust, a successful attempt, to narrow it has been dictated. and limit this power within the due bounds, and I have the honor to be, with the highest considto guard it against perversion. If the American eration, your Lordship’s obedient faithful servant, Government is disposed to enter into a similar
RICHARD RUSH. concert, and can suggest any further regulations, the better to obviate a buse, this Government will Extract of a letter from the Secretary of State to be most ready to listen to any suggestion of this
Messrs. Gallatin and Rush, dated Department of nature, their only object being to contribute, by every effort in their power, to put an end to this
State, November 2, 1818. disgraceful traffic.
“Slave TRADE. I have the honor to be, with great truth, sir, your “ The President desires that you would make most obedient humble servant,
known to the British Government, his sensibility CASTLEREAGH. to the friendly spirit of confidence with which the
treaties lately contracted by Great Britain with Mr. Rush to Lord Castlereagh.
Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands, and the
legislative measures of Parliament, founded upon LONDON, June 23, 1818.
them, have been communicated to this GovernMy LORD: I have been honored with your ment, and the invitation to the United States to Lordship’s note of the twentieth of this month, join in the same or similar arrangements has been enclosing copies of treaties recently concluded be given. He wishes you also to give the strongest tween this Government and the Government of assurances that the solicitude of The United States Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands, respectively, for the accomplishment of the common object, in relation to the slave trade, and designed to draw the total and final abolition of that odious traffic, the attention of the Government of the United continues with all the earnestness which has so States to this subject, with a view to its co-opera- long and so steadily distinguished the course of tion upon principles similar to those held out in their policy in relation to it. As an evidence of these treaties, in measures that may tend to the this earnestness, he requests you to communicate more complete and universal abolition of the traffic. to them a copy of the act of Congress of the last
The United States, from an early day of their session, in addition to the act of 1807, to prohibit history, have regarded with deep and uniform ab- the importation of slaves into the United States, horrence the existence of a traffic attended by such (Acts of the last session, chapter 86, page 81,) and complications of misery and guilt. Its trancend- to declare the readiness of this Government, within ant evils roused, throughout all ranks, a corres- their Constitutional powers, to adopt any further ponding zeal for their extirpation. One step fol- measures, which experience may prove to be ne lowed another until humanity triumphed, and cessary, for the purpose of attaining so desirable against its continuance, under any shape, by its an end. own citizens, the most absolute prohibitions of “But you will observe that, in examining the their code have, for a period of more than ten provisions of the treaties communicated by Lord years, been rigorously, and, it is hoped, beneficially 1 Castlereagh, all their essential articles appear to Suppression of the Slave Trade.
be of a character not adapted to the institutions or sion that even vessels under convoy of ships of to the circumstances of the United States. war of their own nation, should be liable to search
“The power agreed to be reciprocally given to by the ships of war of another. the officers of the ships of war of either party to
“ You will therefore express the regret of the enter, search, capture, and carry into port for ad- President that the stipulations in the treaty comjudication, the merchant vessels of the other, how- municated by Lord Castlereagh, are of a characever qualified and restricted, is most essentially ter to which the peculiar situation and institutions connected with the institution by each treaty of of the United States do not permit them to accede. two mixed courts, one of which to reside in the The Constitutional objection may be the more external or colonial possessions of each of the two readily understood by the British Cabinet, if they parties, respectively. This part of the system is are reminded that it was an obstacle proceeding indispensable to give it that character of recipro- from the same principle which prevented Great city, without which, the right granted to the armed Britain from becoming, formally, a party to the ships of one nation to search the merchant vessels Holy Alliance. Neither can they be at a loss to of another, would be rather a mark of vassa lage perceive the embarrassment under which we should than of independence. But, to this part of the be placed by receiving cargoes
of African negroes, system, the United States, having no colonies, and be bound at once to guaranty their liberty, either on the coast of Africa or in the West Indies, and to employ them as servants. Whether they cannot give effect.
will be as ready to enter into our feelings with “You will add that, by the Constitution of the regard to the search by foreign navy lieutenants, United States, it is provided, the judicial power of of vessels under convoy of our own navy comthe United States shall be vested in a Supreme manders, is perhaps of no material importance. Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress The other reasons are presumed to be amply suffimay, from time to time, ordain and establish. It cient to convince them that the motives for deprovides that the judges of these courts shall hold clining this overture, are compatible with an eartheir offices during good behaviour; and that they nest wish that the ineasures concerted by these shall be removable by impeachment and convic- treaties may prove successful in extirpating that tion of crimes or misdemeanors. There may be root of numberless evils, the traffic in human blood, some doubt whether the power of the Government and with the determination to co-operate to the of the United States is competent to institute a utmost extent of our powers, in this great vindicacourt for the carrying into execution their penal tion of the sacred rights of humanity.” statutes, beyond the territories of the United States, a court consisting partly of foreign judges, not copy of a letter from Mr. Rush to Lord Castiereagh,
dated ciding upon statutes of the United States without appeal.
LONDON, December 21, 1818. * That the disposal of the negroes, found on The undersigned, Envoy Extraordinary and board the slave-trading vessels, which might be Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States, condemned by the sentence of these mixed courts, has the honor to present his compliments to Lord cannot be carried into effect by the United States; Castlereagh. for, if the slaves of a vessel condemned by the In the note of the twenty-third of June, which mixed court should be delivered over to the Gov- the undersigned had the honor to address to his ernment of the United States as freemen, they Lordship, in answer to his Lordship’s communicould not, but by their own consent, be employed cation of the twentieth of the same month, relaas servants or free laborers. The condition of the tive to the slave trade, the undersigned had great blacks being, in this Union, regulated by the mu- pleasure in giving the assurance that he would nicipal laws of the separate States, the Govern- transmit a copy of that communication to his Govment of the United States can neither guaranty ernment, together with the documents which actheir liberty in the States where they could only companied it, being copies of treaties entered into be received as slaves, nor control them in the States on the part of Great Britain, with Spain, Portuwhere they would be recognised as free, gal, and the Netherlands, for the more complete
“ That the admission of a right in the officers abolition of the odious traffic in slaves. He acof foreign ships of war to enter and search the cordingly lost no time in fulfilling that duty, and Vessels of the United States, in time of peace, un- has now the honor to inform his Lordship of the der any circumstances whatever, would meet with instructions with which he has been furnished by universal repugnance in the public opinion of this his Government in reply. country; that there would be no prospect of a rat- He has been distinctly commanded, in the first ification, by advice and consent of the Senate, to place, to make known the sensibility of the Presiany stipulation of that nature; that the search by dent to the friendly spirit of confidence in which foreign officers, even in time of war, is so obnox- these treaties, and the legislative measures of Parliaious to the feelings and recollections of this coun- ment founded upon them, have been communicated try, that nothing could reconcile them to the ex- to the United States, and to the invitation which tension of it, however qualified or restricted, to a has given that they would join in the same time of peace; and that it would be viewed in a or similar arrangements, the more effectually to still more aggravated light if, as in the treaty with accomplish the beneficent object to which they the Netherlands, connected with a formal admis-look. He is further commanded to give the strong