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The most detailed information that has been communicated to this Department, in relation to the Slave-trade, will be found in the inclosed Copy, No. 2, from the late United States' Agent, then resident in Africa, but since deceased. I have, &c.
The Hon. Joseph Hemphill, Chairman of the
(Sub-Inclosure 1.)—Circular from the Navy Department. Navy Department, 13th January, 1821. I DULY received your Letter of 25th November last, an Answer to which has been delayed by the urgency of publick business.
I request you will be pleased to inform me what disposition has been made of the 258 Africans mentioned in your Letter; and what expense, if any, has been incurred for their safe keeping. It is very desirable to save further expences by an early decision of their Case.
I wish also to be informed upon the cases of all others within your jurisdiction, and coming within the execution of the Laws for prohibiting and suppressing the Slave-trade. I am, &c. SMITH THOMPSON.
The District Attornies and Marshals of The United States.
(Sub-Inclosure 2.)-The Rev. Samuel Bacon to the Secretary of the Navy.
Campelar (Sherbro' Island), 21st March, 1820. THE Slave-trade is carried on briskly in this Neighbourhood. Had I authority so to do, I could take a Vessel lying within the floating of one tide, say 25 miles from us, in the Shebar, under American Colours, taking in a Cargo of Slaves. Their policy is to come with a Cargo of goods suited to the Market, deliver it to a Slave Factor on shore, and contract for Slaves. They then lie at anchor in the River, or stand out to sea for a specified number of days, till the Slaves are all procured and brought to the beach, and placed under a hovel or shed prepared for the purpose, all chained two and two. At the appointed time, or on a concerted signal, the Vessel comes in and takes her Slaves on board, and is off in an hour. This is rendered necessary, as they cannot be seized unless they have Slaves on board; and they are watched by the Cruizers, so as to be taken when they have Slaves with them. The Augusta, (the Schooner I purchased,) is a Vessel of 104 tons, a swift sailer, and was intended to take a Cargo of 100. She has a camboose fitted to boil rice in large quantities; Slaves receive one pint each per day. The Hon. Smith Thompson.
(Sub-Inclosure 3.)-Letter from an Officer of the Cyane. United States' Ship Cyane,
Off Sierra Leone, 10th April, 1820. DURING our stay at Sierra Leone, the European Gentlemen who were residents at the Place treated us with the utmost respect, striving who should be most forward in attention and hospitality. A Party was formed by those Gentlemen to show our Officers the interior Settlements; and from their report on their return, I learned the extent of the Colony, and the benevolent philanthropy of the British Nation in alleviating the miseries of the oppressed and ignorant Africans. Not less than 6000 captured Africans have been landed at this Settlement by the British Ships of War. On their arrival, those of a proper age are named and sent to the adjacent Villages. A house and lot is appointed to each family, and they are supported one Year by Government, at the expiration of which they are obliged to look out for themselves. The captured Children are also sent to the Villages, where they are kept at school till married, which is always at an early age. At the head of each Village is a Missionary, who receives his annual support from the Government, and who acts in the double capacity of Minister and Schoolmaster.
Lieutenant Cooper and myself walked through the Villages situated to the Westward of Sierra Leone. We landed at King Town, the former residence of King Tom. The house in which the King resided is in ruins, and almost hidden from view by a shrubbery. From thence we proceeded to Krow Town, a small Village inhabited by about 500 Krow Men. The British Ships of War on this Station have each from 25 to 70 of these Men on their Books. The trade of this Place is considerable. Several Vessels entered and sailed during our short stay; many of them were loaded with ship timber, which is somewhat like our white oak. The other articles of trade are ivory, cam wood, wax and palm oil. We sent a Boat from Sierra Leone for Mr. Bacon, who came up and remained with us 2 days. He has already settled himself with his followers, (until after the rains,) on Sherbro' Island. I fear this Island will not answer his wishes; it is low, unhealthy, difficult of access for Ships, and is not very fertile. There are many Places to Leeward possessing greater advantages, one of which I hope he will select for a permanent Settlement.
After remaining 9 days at Sierra Leone we sailed for the Gallinas, a place of resort for Slave-vessels; since which we have made 10 Captures, some by fair sailing, others by Boats and stratagem. Although they are evidently owned by Americans, they are so completely covered by Spanish Papers that it is impossible to condemn them. Two Schooners, the Endymion and Esperanza, we sent home. We shall leave the Coast in the course of 3 or 4 days for Port Praya, from whence we shall proceed to Teneriffe for provisions.
The Slave-trade is carried on to a very great extent. There are probably not less than 300 Vessels on the Coast engaged in that traffick, each having 2 or 3 Sets of Papers. I sincerely hope Government have revised the Law, giving us more authority. You have no idea how cruelly these poor Creatures are treated by the Monsters engaged in taking them from the Coast.
(Sub-Inclosure 4.)-Case of the French Slave-ship Le Louis; extracted from the 12th Annual Report of the African Institution, printed in 1818.)
THIS Vessel sailed from Martinique on the 30th January, 1816, on a Slave-trading Voyage to the Coast of Africa, and was captured near Cape Mesurado by the Sierra Leone Colonial Vessel of War, the Queen Charlotte, after a severe engagement which followed an attempt to escape, in which 8 Men were killed and 12 wounded of the British; and Proceedings having been instituted against Le Louis, in the ViceAdmiralty Court of Sierra Leone, as belonging to French Subjects, and as fitted out, manned and navigated for the purpose of carrying on the Slave-trade, after the Trade had been abolished, both by the internal Laws of France and by the Treaty between that Country and Great Britain, the Ship and Cargo were condemned as forfeited to His Majesty. From this Sentence an Appeal having been made to the High Court of Admiralty, the Cause came on for hearing, when the Court reversed the Judgment of the Inferior Court, and ordered the restitution of the property to the Claimants.
The Judgment of Sir William Scott was given at great length. The Directors will advert to such points of it as are immediately connected with their present subject. "No doubt," he said, “could exist that this was a French Ship intentionally engaged in the Slave-trade.” But, as these were facts which were ascertained in consequence of its seizure, before the Seizor could avail himself of this discovery, it was necessary to inquire whether he possessed any right of visitation and search; because, if the discovery was unlawfully produced, he could not be allowed to take advantage of the consequences of his own wrong. The Learned Judge then discussed at considerable length the Question, whether the right of search exists in the time of Peace ? And he decided it without hesitation in the negative. "I can find,” he says, "no authority that gives the right of interruption to the navigation of States in amity, upon the High Seas, excepting that which the rights of War give to both Belligerents against Neutrals. No Nation can exercise a right of visitation and search upon the common and unappropriated parts of the Sea, save only on the Belligerent Claim.” He admits, indeed, and with just concern, that if this right be not conceded in time of Peace, it will be extremely difficult to suppress the traffick in Slaves. "The great object therefore ought to be to obtain
the concurrence of other Nations, by application, by remonstrance, by example, by every peaceable instrument which Men can employ to attract the consent of Men. But a Nation is not justified in assuming rights that do not belong to her, merely because she means to apply them to a laudable purpose."
"If this right," he adds, "is imported into a state of Peace, it must be done by Convention; and it will then be for the prudence of States to regulate, by such Convention, the exercise of the right with all the softenings of which it is susceptible."
The Judgment of Sir William Scott would have been equally conclusive against the legality of this seizure, even if it could have been established in evidence that France had previously prohibited the Slave trade by her Municipal Laws. For the sake of argument, however, he assumes, that the view he has taken of the subject, might, in such a case, be controverted. He proceeds therefore to enquire how far the French Law had actually abolished the Slave-trade at the time of this Adventure. The actual state of the matter, as collected from the Documents before the Court, he observes, is this: "On the 27th of July, 1815, the British Minister at Paris writes a Note to Prince Talleyrand, then Minister to the King of France, expressing a desire on the part of his Court to be informed, whether, under the Law of France as it then stood, it was prohibited to French Subjects to carry on the Slave-trade. The French Minister informs him in answer, on the 30th of July, that the Law of the Usurper on that subject was null and void, (as were all his Decrees,) but that His Most Christian Majesty had issued directions, that, on the part of France, the Traffick should cease from the present time, every where, and for ever.' In what form these directions were issued, or to whom addressed, does not appear; but, upon such Authority, it must be presumed that they were actually issued. It is, however, no violation of the respect due to that Authority, to inquire, what was the result or effect of those directions so given; what followed in obedience to them in any public and binding form. And I fear I am compelled to say, that nothing of the kind followed, and that the directions must have slept in the Portfolio of the Office to which they were addressed; for it is, I think, impossible that if any public and authoritative Ordinance had followed, it could have escaped the sleepless attention of many Persons in our own Country, to all publick Foreign Proceedings upon this interesting subject; still less would it have escaped the notice of the British resident Minister, who, at the distance of a year and a half, is compelled, on the part of his own Court, to express a curiosity to know what Laws, Ordinances, Instructions, and other public and ostensible Acts, had passed for the Abolition of the Slave-trade.
"On the 30th of November, in the same year (1815,) the Additional
Article of the Definitive Treaty (a very solemn Instrument, most undoubtedly) is formally and publickly executed, and it is in these terms: The High Contracting Parties, sincerely desiring to give effect to the measures on which they deliberated at the Congress at Vienna, for the complete and universal Abolition of the Slave-trade; and having each, in their respective Dominions, prohibited, without restriction, their Colonies and Subjects from taking any part whatever in this Traffick, engage to renew conjointly their efforts, with a view to ensure final success to the principle which they proclaimed in the Declaration of the 8th of February, 1815, and to concert, without loss of time, by their Ministers at the Court of London, the most effectual measures for the entire and definitive Abolition of the Traffick, so odious, and so highly reproved by the Laws of religion and Nature.'
"Now, what are the effects of this Treaty? According to the view I take of it, they are two, and two only; one declaratory of a fact, the other promissory of future measures. It is to be observed, that the Treaty itself does not abolish the Slave-trade; it does not inform the Subjects, that that Trade is hereby abolished, and that, by virtue of the prohibitions therein contained, its Subjects shall not in future carry on the Trade; but the Contracting Parties mutually inform each other of the fact, that they have in their respective Dominions abolished the Slave-trade, without stating at all the mode in which that Abolition had taken place.
"It next engages to take future measures for the universal Abolition.
"That, with respect to both the declaratory and promissory parts, Great Britain has acted with the optima fides, is known to the whole World, which has witnessed its Domestic Laws as well as its Foreign Negotiations. I am very far from intimating, that the Government of this Country did not act with perfect propriety in accepting the assurance that the French Government had actually abolished the Slavetrade, as a sufficient proof of the fact; but the fact is now denied by a person who has a right to deny it, for though a French Subject he is not bound to acknowledge the existence of any Law which has not publicly appeared; and the other Party having taken upon himself the burthen of proving it in the course of a legal inquiry, the Court is compelled to demand and expect the ordinary evidence of such a disputed fact. It was not till the 15th of January in the present year, (1817,) that the British resident Minister applies for the Communication I have described, of all Laws, Instructions, Ordinances, and so on; he receives in return what is delivered by the French Minister as the Ordinance, bearing date only one week before the requested Communication, namely the 8th of January. It has been asserted in argument, that no such Ordinance has yet, up to this very hour, even ap