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interests of the country can only be maintained by pursuing the course that truth and justice may dictate. Acting under this impression, I do not hesitate to assert, after a careful examination of the documents connected with this unhappy controversy, that, if war must come, we are the authorswe are the responsible party. Standing, as I fear we do, on the eve of a conflict, it would have been to me a source of pride and pleasure to make an opposite declaration ; but that sacred regard to truth and justice, which, I trust, will ever be my guide under the most difficult circumstances, will not permit.
I cannot but call back to my recollection the position which I occupied, twenty-four years since, as a member of the other House. We were then, as I fear we are now, on the eve of a war with a great and powerful nation. My voice then was raised for war, because I then believed that justice, honor, and necessity demanded it. It is now raised for peace, because I am under the most solemn conviction that by going to war, we would sacrifice justice, honor and interest. The same motive which then impelled to war, now impels to peace.
I have not, said Mr. C., made this assertion lightly. It is the result of mature and deliberate reflection. It is not my intention to enter into a minute examination of that unhappy train of events which has brought the country to its present situation ; but I will briefly touch on a few prominent points, beginning with that most unfortunate negotiation, which seems destined to terminate so disastrously for the country.
From the accession of the present king, his Ministry avowed itself favorable to the settlement of our claims. It could scarcely be otherwise. The king had just been raised to the throne, under a revolution originating in popular impulses, which could not but dispose him favorably towards us. La
fayette, at the time, possessed much power and influence, and had greatly contributed to elevate Louis Philippe to his present station. His feelings were known to be decidedly favorable to us. But, with all this favorable inclination, the Ministry were fearful of concluding a treaty. They dreaded the Chambers; they knew how odious all treaties of indemnity were to the entire French nation, and how difficult it would be to bring the Chambers to agree to make an appropriation to carry a treaty of indemnity into effect, even with our country. With these impressions, they frankly stated to Mr. Rives, our Minister, that the difficulty was not with them, but with the Chambers ; that if a treaty were made, it could not be carried into effect without a vote of appropriation from the Chambers; and it was very doubtful whether such a vote could be obtained. These declarations were not made once, or twice ; they were repeated again and again, throughout every stage of the negotiation, and never more emphatically than in the very last, just before the conclusion of the treaty.
The President of the Council, M. Perrier, in a conversation with Mr. Rives, at that late period, stated that there would be no difficulty in arranging the question, were it not that he feared opposition on the part of the Chambers, which might place the relation between the two countries in a more dangerous state, by refusing to make the appropriation. How prophetic ! as if he had foreseen what has since come to pass. I do not profess to give his words; I did not anticipate the dicussion, and have not come prepared with documents ; but what I state is substantially what he said. With this apprehension, he asked our Minister to wait the short period of two months, for the meeting of the Chambers, that they might be consulted before the conclusion of the treaty, in order to avoid the possibility of the embarrassment which has since occurred, and which has so dangerously em
in relation to the case of the brigs Emporium and Enterprise. He held in his hand the Message of the President in answer to the resolution, from which he found there was another case (that of the Comet), of a similar character, of which he was not aware when he made his motion, and which occurred as far back as 1832. He had read with care the correspondence ; but, he must say, with very little satisfaction. It was all on one side. Our Executive has been knocking—no, that is too strong a term—tapping gently at the door of the British Secretary, to obtain justice, for these five years, without receiving an answer—and this, in the plainest case imaginable. It was not his intention to censure those who had been intrusted with the correspondence
our part. They had written enough, and more than enough ; but truth compelled him to say, the tone was not high enough—considering the injustice to our citizens, and the outrage on the flag and honor of the Union. His remarks were intended to apply more especially to the latter part of the correspondence—after the long delay without an answer from the British Government. At first, in so plain a case, little more could have been thought necessary than a plain statement of the facts—which was given in a very clear and satisfactory manner in the letter of the President elect, in the case of the Comet.
Without repeating what he said on the introduction of the resolution, he would remind the Senate of the facts of the case in the briefest manner possible.
The three brigs were engaged in the coasting trade ; and, among other passengers, had slaves on board, belonging to our citizens, who were sending them to the southwestern States with a view to settlement. The Enterprise was forced, by stress of weather, into Port Hamilton, Bermuda ; where the slaves on board were forcibly seized and detained by the local authorities. The ther two were wrecked on the Keys belonging to the Bahama Islands, and the passengers and
crew taken by wreckers, contrary to their wishes, into Nassau, New Providence, where the slaves shared the same fate as at Bermuda.
These are the essential facts of the case. He did not intend to argue the questions that grew out of them. There was, indeed, little or no ground for argument. No one, in the least conversant with the laws of nations, can doubt that those vessels were as much under the protection of our flag, while on their voyage, proceeding from one port of the Union to another, as if they were in port, lying at the wharves, within our acknowledged jurisdiction. Nor is it less clear that, forced as the Enterprise was, by stress of weather, and taken, under the circumstances, as the passengers and crews of the other two were, into the British dominions, they lost none of the rights which belonged to them while on their voyage on the ocean. So far otherwise—so far from losing the protection which our flag gave them while on the ocean, they had superadded, by their misfortunes, the additional rights which the laws of humanity extend to the unfortunate in their situation, and which are regarded by all civilized nations as sacred. It follows as a necessary consequence, that the municipal laws of the place could not divest the owners of the property which, as citizens of the United States, they held in the slaves who were passengers in the vessels ; -and yet, as clear as is this conclusion, they were forcibly seized and detained by the local authorities of the islands ; and the Government of Great Britain, after five years' negotiation, has not only withheld redress, but has not even deigned to answer the oft-repeated applications of our Government in regard to it. We are thus left, by its silence, to conjecture the reasons for so extraordinary a course.
On casting his eyes over the whole subject, he could fix but on one that had the least plausibility—and that resting on a principle which it was scarcely credible that a government so intelligent could assume :-he meant the principle that there could not be property in persons. It was not for him to object that Great Britain, or any other country, should assume this, or any other principle, it might think proper, as applicable to its own subjects, but he must protest against the right to adopt it as applicable to our country or citizens.
It would strike at the independence of our country, and be not less insulting than outrageous; while it would ill become a nation, that was the greatest slaveholder of any on the earth-notwithstanding all the cant about emancipation—to apply such a principle in her intercourse with others. It is true, to speak out boldly on this subject, and to expose freely the folly and hypocrisy of those who accuse others of that, in which, if there be guilt, they are most guilty themselves—ours is not the only mode in which man may have dominion over man. The principle which would abrogate the property of our citizens in their slaves, would equally abrogate the dominion of Great Britain over the subject nations under her control. If an individual can have no property in another, how can one nation, which is but an aggregate of individuals, have dominion, which involves the highest right of property, over another ? If man has, by nature, the right of self-government, have not nations, on the same principle, an equal right? And, if the former forbids one individual from having property in another individual, does not the other equally forbid one nation holding dominion over another? How inconsistent would it be in Great Britain to withhold redress for injustice and injury to our citizens, committed in the West Indies, on the ground that persons could not be property, while, in the East Indies, she exercises unlimited dominion over a hundred millions of human beings, whose labor she controls as effectually as our citizens do that of their slaves ? It is not to be credited that she will venture to assume, in her relations with us, a principle so utterly indefensible, and which could not but expose her to imputations that would