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TYLER'S FIRST ANNUAL MESSAGE,
DECEMBER 6, 1841. Fellow-Citizens of the Senate
and of the House of Representatives : In coming together, fellow-citizens, to enter again upon the discharge of the duties with which the people have charged us, severally, we find great occasion to rejoice in the general prosperity of the country. We are in the enjoyment of all the blessings of civil and religious liberty, with unexampled means of education, knowledge, and improvement. Through the year which is now drawing to a close, peace has been in our borders, and plenty in our habitations; and although disease has visited some few portions of the land with distress and mortality, yet in general the health of the people has been preserved, and we are all called upon, by the highest obligations of duty, to renew our thanks and our devotion to our Heavenly Parent, who has continued to vouchsafe to us the eminent blessings which surround us, and who has so signally crowned the year with His goodness. If we find ourselves increasing, beyond example, in numbers, in strength, in wealth, in knowledge, in everything which promotes human and social happiness, let us ever remember our dependance, for all these, on the protection and merciful dispensations of Divine Providence.
Since your last adjournment, Alexander McLeod, a British subject, who was indicted for the murder of an American citizen, and whose case has been the subject of a correspondence heretofore communicated to you, has been acquitted by the verdict of an impartial and intelligent jury, and has, under the judgment of the court, been regularly
discharged. Great Britain having made known to this government that the expedition, which was fitted out from Canada for the destruction of the steamboat Caroline in the winter of 1837, and which resulted in the destruction of said boat and in the death of an American citizen, was undertaken by orders emanating from the authorities of the British government, in Canada, and demanding the dis
charge of McLeod upon the ground that, if engaged in ihat expedition, he did but fulfil the orders of his govern: ment, has thus been answered in the only way in which she could be answered by a government, the powers of which are distributed among its several departments by the fundamental law. Happily for the people of Great Britain, as well as those of the United States, the only mode by which an individual, arraigned for a criminal offence, before the courts of either, can obtain his discharge, is by the independent action of the judiciary, and by proceedings equally familiar to the courts of both countries. If in Great Britain a power exists in the crown to cause to be entered a nolle prosequi, which is not the case with the executive power of the United States upon a prosecution pending in a state court; yet there, no more than here, can the chief executive power rescue a prisoner from custody without an order of the proper tribunal directing his discharge. The precise stage of the proceedings at which such order may be made, is a matter of municipal regulation exclusively, and not to be complained of by any other government. In cases of this kind, a government becomes politically responsible only when its tribunals of last resort are shown to have rendered unjust and injurious judgments in matters not doubtful. To the establishment and elucidation of this principle, no nation has lent its authority more efficiently than Great Britain. Alexander McLeod, having his option either to prosecute a writ of error from the decision of the Supreme Court of New York, which had been rendered upon his application for a discharge, to the Supreme Court of the United States, or to submit his case to the decision of a jury, preferred the latter, deeming it the readiest mode of obtaining his liberation; and the result has fully sustained the wisdom of his choice. The manner in which the issue submitted was tried, will satisfy the English government that the principle of justice will never fail to govern the enlightened decision of an American tribunal. I cannot fail, however, to suggest to Congress the propriety, and, in some degree, the necessity, of making such provisions by law, so far as they may constitutionally do so, for the removal at their commencemens and at the option of the party, of all such cases as may her after arise, and which may involve the faithful observance and execution of our international obligations, from the State to the Federal Judiciary. This government, by our institutions, is charged with the maintenance of peace and the preservation of amicable relations with the nations of the earth, and ought to possess, without question, all the reasonable and proper means of inaintaining the one and preserving the other. Whilst just confidence is felt in the judiciary of the states, yet this government ought to be competent in itself for the fulfilment of the high duties which have been devolved upon it under the organic law, by the states themselves.
In the month of September, a party of armed men from Upper Canada, invaded the territory of the United States, and forcibly seized upon the person of one Grogan, and, under circumstances of great harshness, hurriedly carried him beyond the limits of the United States, and delivered him up to the authorities of Lower Canada. His immediate discharge was ordered by those authorities, upon the facts of the case being brought to their knowleage, -a course of procedure which was to have been expected from a nation with whom we are at peace, and which was not more due to the rights of the United States, than to its own regard to justice. The correspondence which passed between the Department of State and the British Envoy, Mr. Fox, and with the governor of Vermont, as soon as the facts had been made known to this Department, are herewith communicated.
I regret that it is not in my power to make known to you an equally satisfactory conclusion in the case of the Caroline steamer ; with the circumstances connected with the destruction of which, in December, 1837, by an armed force fitted out in the province of Upper Canada, you are already made acquainted. No such atonement as was due for the public wrong done to the United States by this invasion of her territory, so wholly irreconcilable with her rights as an independent power, has yet been made. In the view taken by this government, the inquiry whether the vessel was in the employment of those who were prosecuting an unauthorized war against thai province, or nas engaged by the owner in the business of transporting passengers to and from Navy Island in hopes of private gain, which was most probably the case, in no degree alters the real question at issue between the two governments. The government can never concede to any foreign government the power, except in a case of the most urgent and extreme necessity, of invading its territory, either to arrest the persons or destroy the property of those who may have violated the municipal laws of such foreign government, or have disregarded their obligations arising under the law of nations. The territory of the United States must be regarded as sacredly secure against all such invasions, until they shall vol. untarily acknowledge their inabili:y to acquit themselves of their duties to others. And in announcing this sentiment, I do but affirm a principle which no nation on earth would be more ready to vindicate, at all hazards, than the people and government of Great Britain.
Is, upon a full investigation of all the facts, it shall ap pear that the owner of the Caroline was governed by a hostile intent, or had made common cause with those who were in the occupancy of Navy Island, then, so far as he is concerned, there can be no clai:n to indemnity for the destruction of his boat, which this government would feel itself bound to prosecute, since he would have acted not only in derogation of the rights of Great Britain, but in clear violation of the laws of the United States; but that is a question which, however settled, in no manner involves the higher consideration of the violation of territorial sovereignty and jurisdiction. To recognize it as an admissible practice that each government, in its turn, upon any sudden and unauthorized outbreak, which may occur on its frontier, the extent of which renders it impossible for either to have an efficient force on every mile of it, and which outbreak, therefore, neither may be able to suppress in a day, may take vengeance into its own hands, and without even a remonstrance, and in the absence of any pressing or overruling necessity, may invade the territory of the other, would inevitably lead io results equally to be deplored by both. When border collisions come to Teceive ihe sanction, or to lo made on the authority of e ther government, general war must be the inevitable result. While it is the ardent desire of the United States to cultivate the relations of peace with all nations, and to fulfl all the duties of good neighborhood toward those who possess territories adjoining their own, that very
desire would lead them to deny the right of any foreign power to invade their boundary with an armed force.
The correspondence between the two governments on this subject, will, at a future day of your session, be submitted to your
consideration; and in the mean time I can. not but indulge the hope that the British government will see the propriety of renouncing, as a rule of future action, the precedent which has been set in the affair at Schlosser.
I herewith submit the correspondence which has recently taken place between the American Minister at the Court of St. James, Mr. Stevenson, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of that government, on the right claimed by that government to visit and detain vessels sailing under the American flag and engaged in prosecuting law. ful commerce in the African seas. Our commercial interests in that region have experienced considerable increase and have become an object of much importance, and it is the duty of this government to protect them against all improper and vexatious interruption.
However desirous the United States may be for the suppression of the slave trade, they cannot consent to interpolations into the maritime code, at the mere will and: pleasure of other governments. We deny the right of any such interpolation to any one, or all the nations of the earth, without our consent. We claim to have a voice in all amendinents or alterations of that code ; and when we are given to understand, as in this instance, by a forcign government, that its treaties with other nations cannot be executed without the establishment and enforcement of new principles of maritime police, to be applied without our consent, we must employ a language neither of equivocal import, nor susceptible of misconstruction.
American citizens, prosecuting a lawful commerce in th: African seas, under the flag of their country, are not responsible for the abuse or unlawful use of that flug by others: nor can they rightfully, on account of any such