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(Extract of a letter from the Secretary of State to John Quincy Adams, esq., London.]
MARCH 13, 1815. I transmit to you an act of Congress proposing an abolition of all discriminating duties in the commercial intercourse between the United States and other nations. The British Government will, it is presumed, see in this act a disposition in the United States to promote on equal and just conditions an active and advantageous commerce between the two countries. This may lay the foundation of a treaty, but in the meantime it is desirable that the British Government should obtain the passage of a similar act by the Parliament.
[Extract of a letter from the Secretary of State to John Quincy Adams, esq., London, of the 11th
of May, 1815.] The commissioners of the United States, who concluded the late treaty at Ghent, had power to arrange every other interfering claim with Great Britain, in which it is regretted they did not succeed. The ratification of the treaty by this Government and the exchange of it are understood to have reached England while all our ministers were in Europe. It will be satisfactory to the President to learn that a negotiation has been opened by them with the British Government on these interesting concerns, and highly gratifying should it terminate in the amicable arrangement of every difference.
[From the American commissioners to the British plenipotentaries.]
GHENT, December 28, 1814. The undersigned have the honor to inform the plenipotentaries of His Britannic Majesty that for the purpose of confirming between the United States and His Majesty perfect harmony and a good correspondence and of removing all grounds of dissatisfaction, the undersigned have been vested with full powers to treat and negotiate for and in the name of the United States with a minister or ministers of His Britannic Majesty furnished with the like power concerning the general commerce between the United States and Great Britain, and its dominions or dependencies, and concerning all matters and subjects connected therewith which may be interesting to the two nations, and to conclude and sign a treaty or convention touching the same.
The undersigned had the honor to give an intimation to that effect in the conference held on the 9th of August with the plenipotentiaries of His Britannic Majesty. The negotiations for the restoration of peace between the two countries having now been brought to a happy conclusion, they renew the communication and avail themselves of this opportunity to reiterate to the British plenipotentiaries the assurance of their high consideration.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS,
April 1, 1816.
[Senate Report No. 78.] Mr. King, from the Committee on Foreign Relations, to whom was referred the memorial of Thomas B. Wait, William S. Wait, and Silas L. Wait, of Boston, proposing to publish an improved edition of state papers of the United States, with instructions to inquire into the expediency of publishing certain documents which have heretofore been deemed confidential, report:
That the committee have examined the files of confidential docu
ments in the office of the Secretary of the Senate, from the commencement of the Government to this time, and have considered the various subjects which they embrace, composed, of the most part, of information which the Executives have, from time to time, communicated to the Senate, relative to the intercourse and negotiations with foreign powers, much of which they are of opinion should remain confidential, as the subject-matter still remains unadjusted. The documents enumerated in the subjoined resolution may, in the opinion of the committee, be published without public detriment. The committee, therefore, submit the following resolution:
Resolved, That the injunction of secrecy be removed from the following documents remaining in the office of the Secretary of the Senate:
Message and documents relative to eastern boundary on British territory of February 9, 1790.
Message and documents relative to same subject, February 18, 1790. Message and documents relative to American prisoners at Algiers, December 30, 1790. Message and documents relative to trade in the Mediterranean, December 30, 1790. Message and documents relative to France, January 17, 1791. Message and documents relative to France, January 19, 1791. Message and documents relative to France, letter and decree, January 26, 1791. Message and documents relative to Great Britain, February 14, 1791. Message and documents relative to Portugal, February, 18, 1791. Message and documents relative to Algiers and Morocco, February 22, 1791.
Message and documents relative to Spain (navigation of the Mississippi), January 11, 1792.
Message and documents relative to negotiations at Madrid, March 7, 1792.
Message and documents relative to Spanish interference with Indians, November 7, 1792.
Message and documents relative to transactions with Spain, December 16, 1793. Message and documents relative to Morocco, Algiers, and prisoners, December 16, 1793.
Message and documents relative to Portugal and Algiers (truce between), December 23, 1793.
Message and documents relative to Spain (letter from representative of), December 30, 1793.
Message and documents relative to France (letters from ministers of), February 7, 1794.
Message and documents relative to Spain (extracts from our ministers at London, also from Carmichael and Short), February 24, 1791.
Message and documents relative to 'Spain and Algiers, March 3, 1794.
Message and documents relative to dispatches from Spain (letter from British minister), April 15, 1794.
Message and document relative to foreign intercourse, February 28, 1795.
Message and documents relative to transactions with Barbary powers, March 1, 1802.
Message and documents relative to treaty with Great Britain (British debts), March 29, 1802.
Message and documents relative to treaty with Great Britain respecting boundaries, October 24, 1803. Message and documents relative to war with Tripoli, January 13, 1806. Message and documents relative to same subject, February 4, 1806. Message and documents relative to ship New Jersey, March 6, 1806. Message and documents relative to same subject, March 7, 1806. Message and documents relative to Spanish innovations, March 19, 1806. Message and documents relative to ex-Bashaw of Tripoli, November 11, 1807.
Message and documents relative to Chesapeake and Leopard, December 7, 1807.
And that copies of the said messages and documents be prepared, under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate, and delivered to Thomas B. Wait, William S. Wait, and Silas L. Wait.
[See pp. 11, 16, 32, 119, 120, 199, 276.] FIFTEENTH CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION.
January 10, 1818. On so much of the President's message as relates to the illicit introduction of slaves from Amelia Island, Mr. Barbour reported as follows:
That, having applied to the Department of State for information respecting the illicit introduction of slaves into the United States, they were referred by the Secretary of State to the documents transmitted to this House by the President's message of the 15th of December last, consisting of various extracts of papers on the files of the Departments of State, of the Treasury, and of the Navy, relative to the proceedings of certain persons who took possession of Amelia Island in the summer of the past year, and also relative to a similar establishment previously made at Galveston, near the mouth of the river Trinity.
Upon a full investigation of these papers, with a view to the subject committed to them, your committee are of opinion that it is but too notorious that numerous infractions of the law prohibiting the importations of slaves into the United States have been perpetrated with impunity upon our southern frontier, and they are further of opinion that similar infractions would have been repeated, with increasing activity, without the timely interposition of the naval force, under the direction of the Executive of our Government.
. In the course of their investigation, your committee have found it difficult to keep separate the special matter given into their charge from topics of a more general nature which are necessarily interwoven therewith; they therefore crave the indulgence of the House while they present some general views connected with the subject which have developed themselves in the prosection of their inquiry.
It would appear from what can be collected from these papers that numerous violations of our laws have been latterly committed by a combination of freebooters and smugglers of various nations, who located themselves, in the first instance, upon an uninhabited spot, near the mouth of the river Trinity, within the jurisdictional limits of the United States, as claimed in virtue of the treaty of cession of Louisiana by France. This association of persons organized a system of plunder upon the high seas, directed chiefly against Spanish property, which consisted frequently of slaves from the coast of Africa, but their conduct appears not always to have been regulated by a strict regard to the national character of vessels falling into their hands when specie or other valuable articles formed part of the cargo. Their vessels generally sailed under a pretended Mexican flag, although it does not appear that the establishment at Galveston was sanctioned by or connected with any other Government. The presumption, too, of any authority ever having been given for such an establishment is strongly repelled as well by its piratical character as its itinerant nature, for the first position at Galveston was abandoned on or about the 5th of April last for one near Matagorda, upon the Spanish territory; and at a later period this last was abandoned and a transfer made to Amelia Island, in East Florida, a post which had
been previously seized by persons who appear to have been equally unauthorized and who were at the time of the said transfer upon the point, it is believed, of abandoning their enterprise, from the failure of resources, which they expected to have drawn from within our limits in defiance of our laws. There exists on the part of these sea rovers an organized system of daring enterprise, supported by force of arms; and it is only by a correspondent system of coercion that they can be met and constrained to respect the rights of property and the laws of nations. It is deeply to be regretted that practices of such a character within our immediate neighborhood and even within our jurisdictional limits should have prevailed unchecked for so long a time, the more especially as one of their immediate consequences was to give occasion to the illicit introduction of slaves from the coast of Africa into these United States and thus to revive a traffic repugnant to humanity and to all sound principles of policy, as well as severely punishable by the laws of the land.
By the seventh section of the act prohibiting the importation of slaves, passed in 1807, the President is fully authorized to employ the naval force to cruise on any part of the United States or Territories thereof where he may judge attempts will be made to violate the provisions of that act, in order to seize and bring in for condemnation all vessels contravening its provisions, to be proceeded against according to law.
By the joint resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives of the 15th of January, 1811, and the act of the same date, the President is fully empowered to occupy any part or the whole of the territory lying east of the river Perdido and sonth of the State of Georgia in the event of an attempt to occupy the said territory or any part thereof by any foreign government or power, and by the same resolution and act he may employ any part of the Army and Navy of the United States which he may deem necessary for the purpose of taking possession of and occupying the territory aforesaid and in order to maintain therein the authority of the United States.
Among the avowed projects of the persons who have occupied Amelia Island was that of making the conquest of East and West Florida, professedly for the purpose of establishing there an independent government, and the vacant lands in those provinces have been, from the origin of this undertaking down to the latest period, held out as lures to the cupidity of adventurers and as resources for defraying the expenses of the expedition. The greater part of West Florida being in the actual possession of the United States, this project involved in it designs of direct hostility against them, and as the express object of the resolution and act of January 15, 1811, was to authorize the President to prevent the province of East Florida from passing into the hands of any foreign power, it became the obvious duty of the President to exercise the authority vested in him by that law. It does not appear that among these itinerant establishers of republics and distributers of Florida lands there is a single individual inhabitant of the country where the republic was to be constituted and whose lands were to be thus bestowed. The project was therefore an attempt to occupy that territory by a foreign power. Where the profession is in such direct opposition to the fact; where the venerable forms by which a free people constitute a frame of government for themselves are prostituted by a horde of foreign freebooters for purposes of plunder; if, under color of authority from any of the provinces contending for their independence, the Floridas, or either of them, had been permitten to pass into the hands of such a power, the committee are per
suaded it is quite unnecessary to point out to the discernment of this House the pernicious influence which such a destiny of the territories in question must have had upon the security, tranquillity, and commerce of this Union.
It is a matter of public notoriety that two of the persons who have successively held the command at Amelia Island, whether authorized themselves by any government or not, have issued commissions for privateers as in the name of the Venezuelan and Mexican Governments to vessels fitted out in the ports of the United States and chiefly manned and officered by our own countrymen for the purpose of capturing the property of nations with which the United States are at peace. One of the objects of the occupation of Amelia Island, it appears, was to possess a convenient resort for privateers of this description, equally reprobated by the laws of nations, which recognize them only under the denomination of pirates, and by several of the treaties of the United States with different European powers, which expressly denominate them as such. It was against the subjects of Spain, one of the powers with which the United States have entered into stipulations prohibiting their citizens from taking any commission from any power with which she may be at war for arming any ships to act as privateers, that these vessels have been commissioned to cruise, though, as the committee have observed, no flag, not even that of our own country, has proved a protection from them.
The immediate tendency of suffering such armaments in defiance of our laws would have been to embroil the United States with all the nations whose commerce with our country was suffering under these depredations, and if not checked by all the means in the power of the Government would have authorized claims froin the subjects of foreign Governments for indemnities at the expense of this nation for the captures by our people in vessels fitted out in our ports, and, as could, not fail of being alleged, countenanced by the very neglect of necessary means of oppressing them. The possession of Amelia Island as a port of refuge for such privateers and of illicit traffic in the United States of their prizes, which were frequently, as before stated, slave ships from Africa, was powerful encouragement and temptation to multiply these violations of our laws, and made it the duty of the Government to use all the means in its power to restore the security of our own commerce and of that of friendly nations upon our coast, which could in no other way more effectually be done than by taking from this piratical and smuggling combination their place of refuge.
In order, therefore, to give effect to the intentions of the legislature, and in pursuance of the provisions of the above-recited resolution and act, it became necessary, as it appears to the committee, to suppress all establishments of the hostile nature of those above described, made in our vicinity, the objects of which appear to have been the occupation of the Floridas, the spoliation of peaceful commerce upon and near our coasts by piratical privateers, the clandestine importation of goods, and the illicit introduction of slaves within our limits. Such establishments, if suffered to subsist and strengthen, would probably have rendered nugatory all provisions made by law for the exclusion of prohibited persons. The course pursued on this occasion will strongly mark the feelings and intentions of our Government upon the great question of the slave trade, which is so justly considered by most civilized nations as repugnant to justice and humanity, and which in our particular case is not less so to all the dictates of a sound policy.
Your committee anticipate beneficial results from the adoption of