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question. I shall rest my argument exclusively on the admissions necessarily involved in the two cases, without looking to any other authority. They will be found, if I do not greatly mistake, ample of themselves for my purpose.
What, then, is the principle necessarily involved, in allowing compensation in those cases ? It will not be necessary to show that the allowance was not a mere act of gratuity to our citizens. No one will suspect that. It was, on the contrary, reluctantly yielded, after years of negotiation, only on the conviction that the rights of our citizens in the negroes could no longer be disputed, and, of course, the injustice of their seizure and detention. This brings me to a question of vital importance in this discussion, to which I must ask the Senate to give me its fixed attention ; and that is, On what did this right of our citizens to the negroes rest? Not certainly on the British laws, either expressed or implied. So far otherwise, they expressly prohibited, in the broadest and most unqualified terms, persons from being brought in, or retained as slaves, under heavy penalty and forfeiture of property ; declared the persons offending to be felons, and subjected them to be transported beyond sea, or to be confined and kept at hard labor for a term of years.* But one answer can be given to the question : that it rested on the laws of their own country. It was only by them they could possibly have a right to the negroes. And here we meet the vital question-how is it that a right resting on our laws should be valid and respected within the limits of the British dominion, against the express prohibition of an act of Parliament.
The answer can only be found in the principles embraced in the first and second of these resolutions. The former affirms the acknowledged principle that a ship or vessel, on the high seas, in time of peace, and engaged in a lawful voy
* See act to amend and consolidate the laws relating to the abolition of the slave trade, 5th sec. 4 c. p. 113. 6 vol. Evan's Statutes.
tined, also, to New Orleans, with negroes on board, on a voyage, in like manner lawful,—was stranded in the same place,taken in the same way, into the same port, where the negroes were also forcibly seized and detained by the local authori ties. It so happens that I am personally acquainted wit) the owners of the negroes in this case. They were citizer of North Carolina, of high respectability, one of them cently President of the State Senate ; and their negroes w shipped for New Orleans, with the view of emigration permanent settlement in one of the Southwestern State
The other is the case of the Enterprise, referred the resolutions. She sailed, in 1835, from this district, ed for Charleston, South Carolina, and, like the others lawful voyage, with regular papers. She was forced voidably by stress of weather, into Port Hamilton, B Island, where the negroes on board were, in like forcibly seized and detained by the local authorities.
The owners of the negroes, after applying in va local authorities for their surrender, made applicati Government for redress of injury : and the result years' negotiation, is, that the British Government to compensate the owners of the Comet and Enc the ground that these cases occurred before the abolition of slavery in her colonies had gone in and refused compensation in the case of the E cause it occurred afterwards.
Such are the material facts, drawn from th ence itself, and admitted in the course of the What I propose, in the first place, is to show ciple, on which compensation was allowed in Comet and Encomium, embraces also that prise ; that no discrimination whatever can them; and that in attempting to make a di British Minister has assumeil
here Trade ohibion, in 1 - act for ite those S.
It is that is no es brought : abolishing verruled by | Encomium. acted by the the one, when
by the law of ir that it is imthe rights of our course, that the ed in the cases of ubraces that of the it municipal laws; laws of nations, nor · case under consideWs of nations, which of the intercourse of ipal laws, where their it. If not, they would so, there can be no dis
age, is, by the law of nations, under the exclusive jurisdiction of the state to which her flag belongs; and the second, that if forced by stress of weather, or other unavoidable cause, into a port of a friendly power, she would lose none of the rights appertaining to her on the high seas ; but, on the contrary, she, with her cargo and persons on board, including their property and all the rights belonging to their relations, would be placed under the protection which the law of nations extends to the unfortunate in such cases.
It is on this solid basis that the rights of our citizens rested. The laws of nations, by their paramount authority, overruled, in those cases, the municipal laws of Great Britain, even within her territorial limits; and it was to their authoritative voice that her Government yielded obedience in compensating our citizens for the violation of rights placed under their sacred protection.
Having now established the principle necessarily implied in the allowance of compensation in the cases of the Comet and Encomium, it will be an easy task to show that it equally embraces the case of the Enterprise. It is admitted by the British Minister, that there is no other distinction between it and the other two, except that it occurred after, and the others before, the act abolishing slavery in the colonies went into operation; and it must, of course, be equally comprehended in the principles embraced in the first and second resolutions, in virtue of which compensation was made, as has been shown ; unless, indeed, that act had the effect of preventing it, which I shall now show it could not, according to the law of nations.
A simple but decisive view will be sufficient for this purpose. I have just shown that the act of Parliament, for abolishing the slave trade, although it expressly prohibited the introduction of slaves within the limits of the British territory, or detaining them in that condition, when brought in, so far from overruling. was overruled by the principles
embraced in these resolutions. If that act did not overrule the laws of nations in those cases, how, I ask, could the act for the abolition of slavery in the colonies overrule them in a case in every essential circumstance acknowledged to be the same? Can a possible reason be assigned ? The authority by which the two were enacted is the same, and the one as directly applicable to the case as the other. If, indeed, there be a difference, the one for the abolition of the slave trade is, of the two, the most applicable. That act directly prohibits the introduction of slaves within the British dominion, in the most unqualified manner,—or the retaining them, when introduced in that condition ; while the object of the act for the abolition of slavery in the colonies, was to emancipate those who were such under the authority of the British laws. It is true, it abolishes slavery in the British dominions; but that is no more than had previously been done, as far as slaves brought into her dominions were concerned, by the act for abolishing the slave trade. And yet we see that act was overruled by the law of nations, in the case of the Comet and Encomium. How, then, is it possible that of two laws, enacted by the same authority, both being equally applicable, the one, when applied to the same case, should be overruled by the law of nations, and the other overrule it? It is clear that it is impossible ; and that if the one cannot devest the rights of our citizens, neither can the other; and, of course, that the principle on which compensation was allowed in the cases of the Encomium and the Comet, equally embraces that of the Enterprise. Both acts were, in truth, but municipal laws ; and, as such, neither could overrule the laws of nations, nor devest our citizens of their rights in the case under consideration. In the nature of things, the laws of nations, which have for their object the regulation of the intercourse of states, must be paramount to municipal laws, where their provisions happen to come into conflict. If not, they would be without authority. If this be so, there can be no dis