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CHAPTER XIII

INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION FOR SUPPRESSING THE TRADE

Work of British Diplomacy among the Continental PowersWhen Spain agreed to Abolish the Slave-trade for a Money Consideration and Failed to Fulfil Her ContractA Free Offer of "Sailors' Rights" which We Refused to Accept A Shameful Record in American Slaver Legislation-The Ashburton Treaty.

MEANTIME in Europe, in 1804, an act in Denmark, abolishing the slave-trade, which had been passed in 1792, came into operation. In 1806 Great Britain proposed to the United States a treaty "of amity, commerce, and navigation" under which the two nations were to " agree to use their best endeavors to procure the co-operation of other Powers for the final and complete abolition of a trade so repugnant to the principles of justice and humanity," but the United States refused to join.

Finding that the act of 1807 was ineffective, the British legislators in 1811 declared participation in the trade by any British subject a felony punishable with fourteen years' transportation.

On March 29, 1815, Napoleon, on assuming control of France after his return from Elba, decreed the abolition of the slave-trade. This decree was re-enacted in 1818 by the Bourbon dynasty.

By the treaty of Ghent, concluded December 24, 1814, Great Britain and the United States agreed to "use their best endeavors" for the abolition of the trade.

On February 8, 1815, “five of the principal Powers [Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria, and France] made a solemn engagement, in the face of mankind, that this traffic should be made to cease, in pursuance of which these Powers have enacted municipal laws to suppress the trade."

On July 23, 1817, Great Britain and Portugal made a treaty whereby "ships of war of each nation might visit merchant vessels of both, if suspected of having slaves on board, acquired by illicit traffic." This related only to trade north of the equator. On September 23d of the same year Spain agreed, in consideration of £400,000 paid to her as an inducement, to "the immediate abolition of the trade north of the equator, its entire abolition after [May 30] 1820, and the concession of the same mutual right of search which the treaty with Portugal had just established." Portugal agreed to abolish the trade absolutely in 1823.

Mixed courts were also established under these treaties, but it is certain that their work was nullified as far as possible by both the Spanish and the Portuguese people.

Few events more honorable to the British nation are described in history. Her willingness to pay out $2,000,000 thus early for the benefit of a down-trodden race was not only a forerunner of a similar and much greater sacrifice, but it was characteristic. That Spain should have been willing to accept pay under such circumstances, and that she should then have de

liberately violated the contract for more than fifty years, was also characteristic.

On May 4, 1818, Great Britain and the Netherlands contracted for a mutual right of search.

On March 3, 1824, Great Britain enacted that any British subject found guilty of engaging in the slavetrade should "be deemed and adjudged guilty of Piracy, Felony and Robbery," and should "suffer Death without Benefit of Clergy, and Loss of Lands, Goods and Chattels, as Pirates, Felons and Robbers upon the Seas ought to suffer."

In 1713 the Assiento treaty was considered a marvellous triumph of diplomacy. In 1824, the trade contemplated in that treaty was denominated piracy.//

On November 6, 1824, Sweden and Great Britain agreed to a mutual right of search on the slave-coast, and England invited us to join in such an agreement, though we declined. In 1820 she had done this also. In 1830 Brazil prohibited the slave-trade under severe penalties. In 1831 and 1833 Great Britain and France agreed to a mutual right of search, and then together invited the United States to join them under the same agreement.

This is an important matter from one point of view. We fought out the war of 1812 because of British aggression; but, in spite of our victories, the British, when peace was made, refused to concede our demands in regard to the searching of our ships and the impressment of our seamen. But now, in order to suppress the slave-trade, England not only asked for the right of search within a definitely described space, but in terms both renounced all claims to a right of search elsewhere and offered to agree that no seamen

should be impressed from the ships so to be searched. A pirate had been, by the law of nations, a man without a country: he was the lawful prize of all honest ships. The plain meaning of any statute declaring the slave-trade piracy was to deliver up the slaver to the vengeance of any lawfully authorized patrolman of the high seas. Great Britain was entirely willing that every British slaver should be treated so, but even John Quincy Adams was constrained to declare to the British authorities, at the behest of the slaver power, that the slave-trade was "statutory piracy "-something different from high-sea robbery. It could never be allowed by the people of the United States that an American slaver should be treated as a high-sea robber by any other power than an American court!

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Anyone wishing to examine the original documents pertaining to this branch of the subject will find them in Sen. Doc., 18 Cong. 2 Sess. I. No. 1; and American State Papers, Foreign, V. Probably the most interesting of our public documents on the slave-trade are No. 283, Ho. Rep., 27 Cong. 3d Sess., and Doc. No. 115, Ho. Ex. Rep. 26 Cong., 2d Sess.

The radical trouble was that cotton-growing was becoming so profitable that people who in 1808 thought slavery a dying institution had become aggressive for the spread of it, and so men were always found in Congress to block legislation that would hinder the slavers. Worse yet, the law of May 15, 1820, was thwarted by the United States District Attorneys who brought indictments against captured slavers under previous Statutes. It appears by the records, for instance, that in the United States District Court for Maryland, Captain Jason L. Pendleton, of the slaver brig Montevideo,

was sentenced on Monday, June 23, 1845, by Justice Heath, on an indictment found under the statute of May 10, 1800.

Our act of 1819 for the suppression of the slave-trade had carried an appropriation of $100,000 for enforcing it. In 1823 we appropriated $50,000. Thereafter at wide intervals smaller appropriations were made. In 1834 only $5,000 was appropriated, and not another cent was given after that until 1842. Moreover the money given in these appropriations was not wholly for the direct suppression of the slave-trade, the bulk being devoted to the support of negroes captured from smugglers and of that ill-gotten enterprise the Liberia colony.

Nevertheless a treaty in relation to the slave-trade was yet to be made with Great Britain. The causes leading to this treaty were numerous, the chief cause being the exposures, frequently made, of the doings of American slave-ships. Our cruisers captured a slaver now and then. The Cyane, the first sent out, captured five, of which the Plattsburgh was most notorious. The tales of these slavers, and the perjury which their owners never hesitated to commit (see the slaver cases in reports of U. S. Supreme Court) were shocking.

But the feature of the trade that proved most shocking was the use of the American flag for its protection. Because we had deliberately and emphatically declared that no foreign ship should search an American merchant-man in time of peace, the slavers flocked to our flag. Slavers were captured, too, that carried blank American papers to be filled out as occasion required. The Constitucao, with blank papers signed

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