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irregularity will inevitably follow. I shall, with the greatest cheerfulness, acquiesce in the decision of that body, and, regarding it as wisely constituted to aid the Executive department in the performance of this delicate duty, I shall look to its "consent and advice" as given only in furtherance of the best interests of the country. I shall also, at the earliest proper occasion, invite the attention of Congress to such measures as in my judgment will be best calculated to regulate and control the Executive power in reference to this vitally important subject.
I shall also, at the proper season, invite your attention to the statutory enactments for the suppression of the slave trade, which may require to be rendered more efficient in their provisions. There is reason to believe that the traffic is on the increase. Whether such increase is to be ascribed to the abolition of slave labor in the British possessions in our vicinity, and an attendant diminution in the supply of those articles which enter into the general consumption of the world, thereby augmenting the demand from other quarters, and thus calling for additional labor, it were needless to inquire. The highest considerations of public honor, as well as the strongest promptings of humanity, require a resort to the most vigorous efforts to suppress the trade.
In conclusion, I beg leave to invite your particular attention to the interests of this District. Nor do I doubt but that, in a liberal spirit of legislation, you will seek to advance its commercial as well as its local interests. Should Congress deem it to be its duty to repeal the existing sub-Treasury law, the necessity of providing a suitable place of deposite for the public moneys which may be required within the District must be apparent to all.
I have felt it due to the country to present the foregoing topics to your consideration and reflection. Others, with which it might not seem proper to trouble you at an extraordinary session, will be laid before you at a future day. I am happy in committing the important affairs of the country into your hands. The tendency of public sentiment, I am pleased to believe, is towards the adoption, in a spirit of union and harmony, of such measures as will fortify the public interests. To cherish such a tendency of public opinion is the task of an elevated patriotism. That differences of opinion as to the means of accomplishing these desirable objects should exist, is reasonably to be expected. Nor can all be made satisfied with any system of measures. But I flatter myself with the hope that the great body of the people will readily unite in support of those whose efforts spring from a disinterested desire to promote their happiness; to preserve the Federal and State Governments within their respective orbits; to cultivate peace with all the nations of the earth, on just and honorable grounds; to exact obedience to the laws; to entrench liberty and property in full security; and, consulting the most rigid economy, to abolish all useless expenses.
WASHINGTON, June 1, 1841.
DOCUMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE.
Mr. Fox to Mr. Webster.
WASHINGTON, March 12, 1841.
The undersigned, her Britannic Majesty's envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, is instructed by his Government to make the following official communication to the Government of the United States:
Her Majesty's Government have had under their consideration the correspondence which took place at Washington in December last, between the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Forsyth, and the undersigned, comprising two official letters from the undersigned to Mr. Forsyth, dated the 13th and 29th of December, and two official letters from Mr. Forsyth to the undersigned, dated the 26th and 30th of the same month, upon the subject of the arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Alexander McLeod, of Upper Canada, by the authorities of the State of New York, upon a pretended charge of arson and murder, as having been engaged in the capture and destruction of the steamboat Caroline, on the 29th of December, 1837.
The undersigned is directed, in the first place, to make known to the Government of the United States that her Majesty's Government entirely approve of the course pursued by the undersigned in that correspondence, and of the language adopted by him in the official letters above mentioned. And the undersigned is now instructed again to demand from the Government of the United States, formally, in the name of the British Government, the immediate release of Mr. Alexander McLeod.
The grounds upon which the British Government make this demand upon the Government of the United States are these: that the transaction on account of which Mr. McLeod has been arrested, and is to be put upon his trial, was a transaction of a public character, planned and executed by persons duly empowered by her Majesty's colonial authorities to take any steps and to do any acts which might be necessary for the defence of her Majesty's territories and for the protection of her Majesty's subjects; and that consequently those subjects of her Majesty who engaged in that transaction were performing an act of public duty for which they cannot be made personally and individually answerable to the laws and tribunals of any foreign country.
The transaction in question may have been, as her Majesty's Government are of opinion that it was, a justifiable employment of force for the purpose of defending the British territory from the unprovoked attack of a band of British rebels and American pirates, who, having been permitted to arm and organize themselves within the territory of the United States, had actually invaded and occupied a portion of the territory of her Majesty; or it may have been, as alleged by Mr. Forsyth, in his note to the undersigned of the 26th of December, "a most unjustifiable invasion in time of peace of the territory of the United States." But this is a question
especially of a political and international kind, which can be discussed and settled only between the two Governments, and which the courts of justice of the State of New York cannot by possibility have any means of judging or any right of deciding.
It would be contrary to the universal practice of civilized nations to fix individual responsibility upon persons who with the sanction or by the orders of the constituted authorities of a State engaged in military or naval enterprizes in their country's cause; and it is obvious that the introduction of such a principle would aggravate beyond measure the miseries, and would frightfully increase the demoralizing effects of war, by mixing up with national exasperation the ferocity of personal passions, and the cruelty and bitterness of individual revenge.
Her Majesty's Government cannot believe that the Government of the United States can really intend to set an example so fraught with evil to the community of nations, and the direct tendency of which must be to bring back into the practice of modern war, atrocities which civilization and Christianity have long since banished.
Neither can her Majesty's Government admit for a moment the validity of the doctrine advanced by Mr. Forsyth, that the Federal Government of the United States has no power to interfere in the matter in question, and that the decision thereof must rest solely and entirely with the State of New York.
With the particulars of the internal compact which may exist between the several States that compose the Union, foreign Powers have nothing to do the relations of foreign Powers are with the aggregate Union; that Union is to them represented by the Federal Government; and of that Union the Federal Government is to them the only organ. Therefore, when a foreign Power has redress to demand for a wrong done to it by any State of the Union, it is to the Federal Government, and not to the separate State, that such power must look for redress for that wrong. And such foreign Power cannot admit the plea that the separate State is an independent body over which the Federal Government has no control. It is obvious that such a doctrine, if admitted, would at once go to a dissolution of the Union as far as its relations with foreign Powers are concerned; and that foreign Powers, in such case, instead of accrediting diplomatic agents to the Federal Government, would send such agents not to that Government, but to the Government of each separate State; and would make their relations of peace and war with each State depend upon the result of their separate intercourse with such State, without reference to the relations they might have with the rest.
Her Majesty's Government apprehend that the above is not the conclusion at which the Government of the United States intend to arrive; yet such is the conclusion to which the arguments that have been advanced by Mr. Forsyth necessarily lead.
But, be that as it may, her Majesty's Government formally demand. upon the grounds already stated, the immediate release of Mr. McLeod; and her Majesty's Government entreat the President of the United States to take into his most deliberate consideration the serious nature of the consequences which must ensue from a rejection of this demand.
The United States Government will perceive that, in demanding Mr. McLeod's release, her Majesty's Government argue upon the assumption that he was one of the persons engaged in the capture of the steamboat
"Caroline;" but her Majesty's Government have the strongest reasons for being convinced that Mr. McLeod was not, in fact, engaged in that transaction; and the undersigned is hercupon instructed to say that, although the circumstance itself makes no difference in the political and international question at issue, and although her Majesty's Government do not demand Mr. McLeod's release upon the ground that he was not concerned in the capture of the "Caroline," but upon the ground that the capture of the "Caroline" was a transaction of a public character, for which the persons engaged in it cannot incur private and personal responsibility; yet the Government of the United States must not disguise from themselves that the fact that Mr. McLeod was not engaged in the transaction must necessarily tend greatly to inflame that national resentment which any harm that shall be suffered by Mr. McLeod at the hands of the authorities of the State of New York, will infallibly excite throughout the whole of the British empire.
The undersigned, in addressing the present official communication, by order of his Government, to Mr. Webster, Secretary of State of the United States, has the honor to offer to him the assurance of his distinguished con sideration.
The Hon. DANIEL WEBSTER,
H. S. FOX
Secretary of State.
Mr. Webster to Mr. Fox.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, April 24, 1841.
The undersigned, Secretary of State of the United States, has the honor to inform Mr. Fox, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of her Britannic Majesty, that his note of the 12th of March was received and laid before the President.
Circumstances well known to Mr. Fox have necessarily delayed, for some days, the consideration of that note.
The undersigned has the honor now to say, that it has been fully considered, and that he has been directed by the President to address to Mr. Fox the following reply.
Mr. Fox informs the Government of the United States, that he is instructed to make known to it, that the Government of her Majesty entirely approve the course pursued by him, in his correspondence with Mr. Forsyth, in December last, and the language adopted by him on that occasion; and that that Government have instructed him "again to demand from the Government of the United States, formally, in the name of the British Government, the immediate release of Mr. Alexander McLeod;" that "the grounds upon which the British Government make this demand upon the Government of the United States, are these: that the transaction on account of which Mr. McLeod has been arrested and is to be put upon his trial, was a transaction of a public character, planned and executed by persons duly empowered by her Majesty's colonial authorities to take any steps and to do any acts which might be necessary for the defence of her
Majesty's territories, and for the protection of her Majesty's subjects; and that consequently those subjects of her Majesty who engaged in that transaction, were performing an act of public duty for which they cannot be made personally and individually answerable to the laws and tribunals of any foreign country."
The President is not certain that he understands, precisely, the meaning intended by her Majesty's Government to be conveyed, by the foregoing instruction.
This doubt has occasioned, with the President, some hesitation; but he inclines to take it for granted that the main purpose of the instruction was, to cause it to be signified to the Government of the United States, that the attack on the steamboat "Caroline" was an act of public force, done by the British colonial authorities, and fully recognised by the Queen's Government at home; and that, consequently, no individual concerned in that transaction can, according to the just principle of the laws of nations, be held personally answerable in the ordinary courts of law, as for a private offence; and that upon this avowal of her Majesty's Government Alexander McLeod, now imprisoned, on an indictment for murder, alleged to have been committed in that attack, ought to be released, by such proceedings as are usual and are suitable to the case.
The President adopts the conclusion, that nothing more than this could have been intended to be expressed, from the consideration, that her Majesty's Government must be fully aware, that in the United States, as in England, persons confined under judicial process can be released from that confinement only by judicial process. In neither country, as the undersigned supposes, can the arm of the Executive power interfere, directly or forcibly, to release or deliver the prisoner. His discharge must be sought in a manner conformable to the principles of law, and the proceedings of courts of judicature. If an indictment, like that which has been found against Alexander McLeod, and under circumstances like those which belong to his case, were pending against an individual in one of the courts of England, there is no doubt that the law officer of the crown might enter a nolle prosequi, or that the prisoner might cause himself to be brought up on habeas corpus, and discharged, if his ground of discharge should be adjudged sufficient, or that he might prove the same facts and insist on the same defence or exemption on his trial.
All these are legal modes of proceeding, well known to the laws and practice of both countries. But the undersigned does not suppose, that if such a case were to arise in England, the power of the Executive Government could be exerted in any more direct manner. Even in the case of embassadors, and other public ministers, whose right of exemption from arrest is personal, requiring no fact to be ascertained but the mere fact of diplomatic character, and to arrest whom is sometimes made a highly penal offence, if the arrest be actually made, it must be discharged by application to the courts of law.
It is understood that Alexander McLeod is holden as well on civil as on criminal process, for acts alleged to have been done by him, in the attack on the "Caroline;" and his defence, or ground of acquittal, must be the same in both cases. And this strongly illustrates, as the undersigned conceives, the propriety of the foregoing observations; since it is quite clear that the Executive Government cannot interfere to arrest a civil suit, be'tween private parties, in any stage of its progress; but that such suit must