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Had he received notice that the orders were to be revoked, he would have removed the misconception, to which, judging from the friendly assurances given both by the President and his predecessor, he attributes that revocation.
Mr. Clayton, on the 29th, replied to Baron Roenne, that although it was not the intention of the American government to argue the question that had given rise to the present correspondence, yet the President, from his profound respect for the German government, had thought proper to take the opinion of the Attorney General on the question, a copy of which opinion Mr. Clayton then transmits to the German minister. He then repeats the conditions on which the steamer will be permitted to leave the harbour of New York, and he hopes that the German minister will be prepared to give the required assu
According to the opinion of the Attorney General, the steamer which the German government was then fitting out in New York is within the provisions of the act of Congress, of April, 1818. He states the grounds of his opinion, and says that the construction of the law contended for by Baron Roenne, would defeat its purpose.
Baron Roenne, two days afterwards, offers comments on the opinion of the Attorney General. He relies on there being no secrecy in that affair, and on the early sanction of the American government; insists that the present case is not within the act of Congress of 1818; that the assurance he had already given in his note of the 14th ultimo fully met the provisions of that act; that to go further would be inconsistent with his duty to his country, and will not, he is persuaded, be required of him by the President.
Mr. Clayton, on the 5th, says that from the great desire felt to satisfy the German government of the friendly disposition of the United States, he is induced to reply to the argument of Baron Roenne; that secrecy, though a common badge of crime, is not indispensable to it; that the executive branch of the government is not the government, and cannot sanction a criminal violation of law. He shows, from a detailed reference to the facts, that the case is within the law of 1818, and that the minister's construction of his own assurance would render that assurance of no value. He concludes, that as Baron Roenne refuses to give the required assurance, the Collector of New York is instructed to execute the 11th section of the act of Congress, by which the steamer will be detained until her true owner gives satisfactory security that she shall not be employed to commit hostilities against any power now at peace with the United States; and the Baron is at liberty to carry the questions he has raised before the judicial tribunals of the country, by whose decisions the President will cheerfully abide. Baron Roenne, in a note of the 15th of May, submits to the decision of the President, with a protest, and adds that the bond required will be given by the agents of the German government. The questions on
which he has differed from the Secretary of State, will be open for the decision of the courts, should a suit be brought on the bond, which, however, he does not anticipate, a bond was accordingly given by Mr. William Wedding, who was designated as the agent of the "Central Power of Germany."
It seems that Mr. Steen Billé, the Danish Chargé d'Affaires to the United States, on the 2d of April, called the attention of Mr. Clayton to the case of the war steamer "United States," then fitting out in New York, and which, he said, was to retain her American character until she was delivered in a German port. He urges that the case is within the scope of the act of Congress of 1818, and asks for the interposition of the executive. Mr. Clayton states in his reply, that his attention had been drawn to this subject as soon as he took charge of the State Department, and that he had promptly obtained information of the real character and destination of the steamer in question. Mr. Billé was invited to come to Washington from Philadelphia, to receive the necessary explanations. In a subsequent correspondence between him and Mr. Clayton, Mr. Billé expressed himself entirely satisfied with the course pursued by the American government. Mr. Clayton had taken the precaution to require of the American Chargé at Copenhagen, to afford the requisite explanations and assurances to the Danish government. He had given similar instructions to Mr. Donelson, and learned from him that the course adopted by the American government, relative to the steamer United States, was highly approved by the Prussian ministry; and that the members of the German cabinet, at Frankfort, also expressed themselves satisfied with that course. Mr. Duckwitz admitted that as matters then stood, it was fortunate that none of the American officers had accepted the invitation given to them.
It was of importance for the United States to proclaim to the world at this time, when their neutral relations were so likely to be affected by the contests which agitated Europe, that while they are determined on maintaining their rights of neutrality, once so grossly assailed, they were also no less determined strictly to fulfil its duties; and this course was further recommended by the fact, that in their late war with Mexico, those duties had been most scrupulously respected by all other nations, notwithstanding the known sympathies of some of them with our adversaries.
Whilst all interference in the disputes of other nations must be regarded as unfriendly to the peace of the world, and as affording ready pretexts for political ambition, a nation is required to put no restraint on its feelings when they lead only to acts of beneficence,—as in the case of the appeal lately made by the lady of Sir John Franklin to the President of the United States, to aid in the search for her husband, who, having been sent by the British government on an expedition to the Arctic regions, had not been heard of for more than two years.
The President readily and cordially expressed his willingness to use the power he possessed to further her purpose, and orders to the naval department were issued accordingly; but it has been since ascertained that, restricted as is the executive power to the specific objects for which money has been appropriated, the department had no means at their disposal of despatching a vessel at this time in search of the unfortunate explorers.
The United States were this year again visited by the Asiatic cholera, after an interval of sixteen years. It made its first appearance in the spring, and continued to spread and increase in virulence throughout the summer months. In every part of the Union, diarrhoea and other intestinal diseases indicated the presence of that atmospheric poison which is supposed to be the proximate cause of the epidemic; but it was only in the cities and towns that it was aggravated to the specific malady, except in a few rare cases. The western towns suffered much more severely than those on the Atlantic, and none so much as St. Louis and Cincinnati. The disease, in the Atlantic cities, was less fatal than it had been in 1832 and 1833, but this was because it attacked a smaller proportion of the population; for, in general, now as then, not more than one-half of those seized with it recovered. Now as then, too, its ravages were at first principally among those who were exposed to the discomforts of poverty, who were uncleanly in their habits, or who indulged themselves in eating fruit or succulent vegetables. The mortality in some of the western towns was frightful. The smaller comparative number of cases this year, in places where the diminution was observable, may be attributed either to a mitigated form of the disease, except in a few localities, or to increased medical skill in arresting its progress in its incipient stages. A more minute history than has yet been given of this terrible scourge of humanity may contribute to bring it now within the control of medical science. In the Chronicle will be found some further details of its extent and progress.
The new administration soon had another opportunity of exhibiting its determination to respect our treaty obligations towards other countries, as well as its pacific policy. The President, understanding that a secret expedition was in preparation near New Orleans, whose object was the invasion of either Mexico or Cuba, issued a proclamation on the 11th of August, while on a tour through the northern States, for the purpose of warning the citizens of the United States that all such enterprises were in violation of our treaty engagements; that they subjected those persons who were concerned in them to the penalties of the law, and that such persons must, in no extremity, expect the protection or interposition of the government. All officers of the government, civil and military, were further required to aid in arresting the offenders and bringing them to punishment. It has been since understood that Cuba was the object of the expedition, and that the enterprise has been encouraged, and probably set on foot, by persons of
weight and influence in that Island, in which there has long been complaints of oppressive exactions on their commerce, and of other acts of misgovernment. Though this timely and decisive course of the Executive has not, it is said, induced all who were engaged in the lawless enterprise to abandon it altogether, it is to be hoped it will so quicken the vigilance of the public officers that they, with the aid of the soberminded and loyal portion of our citizens, will be able to frustrate the purposes of the expedition. Persons suspected of being engaged in the scheme, to the number of between 400 and 500 men, assembled at Round Island, in Louisiana, where, it was believed, they meant to embark with many others enlisted in other places; but the sloop of war Albany, and some smaller vessels, were ordered to watch their movements, and arrest the expedition, if attempted. Captain Randolph, of the Albany, gave notice to the persons encamped on Round Island that he had proof of the acknowledgments of some of the party that their destination was Cuba; that he should prevent any vessels from furnishing them with arms, or warlike stores; as well as prevent them from embarking on board any of the steamers hovering round the Island; and that, after that day, (28th of August,) he should cut off all supplies of provisions, and "rigidly enforce the blockade." He adds, that he would give them every facility for leaving the Island, except that of embarking in sea-going vessels.
The course pursued by President Taylor, in the Cuban affair is similar to that which was adopted by President Jackson when the struggle for Texan independence commenced. On the 4th of November, 1835, Mr. Forsyth, Secretary of State, wrote to the attorney of the district bordering on Texas, in these words:
"It has become necessary for me to call your attention to the probable event of a contest between the different portions of the Mexican empire in the vicinity of the United States. Some of our citizens may, from their connexion with the settlers there, and from their enterprise and love of change, be induced to forget their duty to their own government and its obligations to foreign powers; but it is the fixed determination of the executive faithfully to discharge, so far as its power extends, all the obligations of the government, and more especially that which requires that we shall abstain, under every temptation, from intermeddling with the domestic disputes of other nations.
"You are, therefore, earnestly enjoined, should the contest begin, to be attentive to all the movements of a hostile character which may be contemplated or attempted within your district, and to prosecute, without discrimination, all violations of those laws of the United States which have been enacted for the purpose of preserving peace, and of fulfilling the obligations of treaties with foreign powers.'
While the United States were thus disposed to respect the rights of other nations, they were called upon to assert their own. In July, a Spaniard, by the name of Rey alias Garcia, was said to have been seized
in New Orleans by the order or procurement of the Spanish Consul, put on board of a vessel, and sent to Havana. It was alleged that he had been a jailer in Havana, and had connived at the escape of two prisoners in his custody. A judicial investigation was immediately instituted before a justice of the peace, against the Spanish Consul and other persons supposed to be concerned in the abduction. The magistrate, after a full inquiry, decided that the accused had been guilty of the offence of false imprisonment against Rey. It seems, however, that after this man arrived at Havana, on the 17th of July, and while he continued on board the vessel, then performing quarantine, he declared in a letter to the Captain-General of Cuba; that he had left New Orleans voluntarily, and that he had come to Havana to have a personal interview with the Captain-General. It further appears that Mr. Campbell, the American Consul at Havana, having heard that Rey was forcibly taken from New Orleans, went on board of the vessel to make inquiry of Rey himself, who then declared to Mr. Campbell that he had left New Orleans of his own free will. But notwith
standing these declarations, he, the same day, wrote to Mr. Campbell that he had been taken from New Orleans by force, by order of the Spanish Consul, solicited the protection of the American flag, and permission to return to the United States. He said his name was Juan Garcia Rey, and added that he had not spoken frankly to Mr. Campbell in their former interview on account of the presence of the captain. On the receipt of this letter, Mr. Campbell wrote to the CaptainGeneral to inform him of the letter he had received from Garcia or Rey, and to ask leave to converse with him before two witnesses who would permit him to answer freely to such questions as should be put to him. This request was at first refused by the Captain-General, the Count de Alcoy, for reasons given at length, but in consequence of a subsequent application and correspondence, which have not been published, Rey was afterwards surrendered to the American Consul, and sent back to New Orleans, where the character of the abduction is to undergo a further judicial examination.*
This would seem to be a far more unquestionable case of violated sovereignty than that of Jonathan Robins, which caused so much excitement in 1800, and which John Marshall, afterwards Chief Justice, so signalized by the closest and most conclusive logic perhaps ever uttered in Congress; inasmuch as Robins was delivered to the British Consul in Charleston on the authority of a federal judge; but the gross contradictions, and other inconsistencies of this Garcia or Rey, raise perplexing doubts about the real character of the transaction, and, at all events, incline us to regard him as a much more unworthy object of American protection than Robins.
California has continued to attract adventurers in about equal num
The Spanish Consul de Espano was bound over in the sum of $5,000 to appear at the next Circuit Court to be held in New Orleans.