Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 50
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APPENDIX—To Gales & Section's Register.
18th Congress, ?
2d session. $
Report on the subject of Piracies.
[ H. of R.
ly provision on this subject is,'that which requires bond
and security to be given to prevent an unlawful use of
the armed vessel; a provision which should not be
changed—an adherence to which the best interest of
The propriety of authorizing by law the pursuit of the
pirates on land, has also been a subject of consideration.
The committee do not deem an act of Congress for this
purpose necessary. The rule of international law is,
that fugitives from the justice of one nation are to be
considered in another as strangers entitled to protection,
and having a right of residence; on the common princi-
ple, that no nation has a right to punish a person who
has not otrended itself, nor is it bound to assist its neigh-
bor in the execution of its criminal laws. Pirates are
criminals against all nations, punishable in every tribu-
nal : the common enemies of mankind ; the duty of all
nations, and every man is, to hunt them down, that they
way be delivered up to offended justice. Fresh pursuit
of enemies into the territory of a common friend, is not
universally admitted to be a right of war. Powerful
nations never permit feeble neighbors to enter their ter-
ritory for this purpose, but enter without scruple in j
pursuit of their enemies, the territory of such neighbors, !
unless restrained by the apprehension that the mutual 1
friend seeks a fair occasion to become an ally against i
them in the war. Practically, the; questioa is one not of'
right, but of relative power. The pursuit of a mutual
enemy into the territory of a friendly or allied power, is
a right of war: it cannot be deemed a violation of the
Sovereignty of that power ; it confers a favor, and im-
poses upon him an obligation of gratitude.
The common enemy cannot avail himself of the pro-
tection of the territory of the third power, but by sur-
rendering himself as a prisoner of war, and in that event,
if the force of the pursuer was the cause of the surrend-
er, the pursuer might rightfully claim the benefit of the
surrender. Under this rule the pursuit and capture of
pirates any where, and every where, may be justified.
The Executive has acted upon it. Instructions have
been given to our naval commanders to pursue, and
capture on Spanish territory, pirates who seek refuge
or concealment there. I'h« government of Spain has
been duly warned of the existence of these orders; it
knows that they will be obeyed. No remonstrance has
been made by it; no objections have, as far as the com-
mittee have been informed, been urged. The acquies-
cence of Spain is all that should be desired. A distinc-
tion is supposed to exist between pursuit of pirates un
lands uninhabited, and on those inhabited; and it is im-
agined that the authority of Congress is necessary to
justify pursuit in the latter case, while in the former, the
power of the Executive alone is sufficient. The com-
mittee do not admit, the correctness of this distinction,
i'resh pursuit is justifiable in either case, if necessary to
the capture of the pirate. There is greater danger of
collision with the friendly power, when the object of
pursuit flies into a settled country, and greater care is
requisite to avoid giving offence ; but the same princi-
ples apply to either case j and it is just as necessary
that Congress should legislate to justify the capture of
pirates, as to authorize the pursuit of them into any place
of refuge inhabited or unsettled.
Prom an attentive examination of the letters of the
agent who was sent to Cuba to obtain information, rela-
tive to the pirates who have long infested the coast
of that island, it would seem that no fresh pursuit on
land will eradicate the evil. Authority must exist to
search in the suspected settlements for persons believed
to be guilty of piracy, and for the evidence of their guilt,
and to bring them betore our tribunals for trial and pun-
ishment. This authority Congress cannot give without
making war upon Spain. It cannot be used without
■wresting from Spain her municipal jurisdiction. The
evil lies loo deep to be reached by any ordinary mea-
sures, which foreign powers can apply to it.
The Government of Spain must give to the local au-
thority what it is said to want—sufficient strength to
prevent and to punish crimes : it must perform its du-
ties, or those who sutler from its neglect or w. akness
will be driven, by the necessity ot the case, to apply the
corrective. The committee would bring more distinct-
ly into view the only efficient remedy, and recommend
a resort to it, if they believe o sufficient time had elapsed
since remonstrances were made by our government to
Spain, to prove incontestibly that she wanted either the
puwer or the will to do iier duty, although they are
aware that the conduct of an) government in applying
that remedy without previous concert wuli other nations
alike interested in the question, would be liable to mis-
conception, and excite well-founded jealousies. The
committee cannot doubt that the Executive, applying
all proper means to prevent, to detect, and to punish,
the crime of piracy, and pressing upon Spain, and ner
local authorities, that the honor and the interest of Spain
requires the best exertions for the same purpose, will
not fail to confer with the great commercial nations oil
the extraordinary measures to be used, if the object is
not speedily accomplished by the faithful exertion of the
powers of Spain.
The danger to which our commerce is exposed, and
the injuries it has suffered from privateers acting under
regular or irregular commissions, are ot a different char-
acter, and require a ehfferent remedy. The committee
understand that outrages of this kind have almost, if not
entirely ceased; for those winch have been inSicted, or
which may hereafter be inflicted, Spam is directly re-
sponsible. Reparation must be liad—by negotiation, or
by the exercise of such powers as may, for that purpose,
be vested in the Executive by Congress.
To guard against future injury, the safest resource
is,to enforce promptly ample redress for that which
has been suffered. The committee have already re-
ferred to the injuries suffered in consequence of the
proclamation of Morales. Those injuries are not jet
redressed. The Government of Spain has not attempt-
ed to justify a proclamation declaring, with a naval
force insufficient to shut up the smallest port on the
coast, a seacoast of twelve hundred miles in a state
of blockade, nor the absurd pretension that the proper-
ty of all neutral nations, is, under the colonial law of
Spain, liable to confiscation, if taken on its way to Span-
ish America ; but the property of American citizens cap-
tured by privateers from the islands of Porto liico and
Cuba, and from Porto Cabello, is now withheld under
these pretensions. The Spanish Government having for-
mally revoked the blockade, gives to the tribunals of
Spain an excuse for the condemnation of all property-
seized prior to that revocation—an excuse of which they
do not hesitate to avail themselves. Acting under in-
structions from the President, of the 28th of April, 1823,
the Minister 'if the United States, at the Court of Spain,
demanded satisfaction in January, 1824, from that Go-
vernment, for the outrages committed from Porto Cabel-
lo, and the islands of Porto liico and Cuba, upon the
commerce of the United States, and for the wanton mur-
der of one of our gallant officers in the harbor of Saint
John's, by the officer commanding the fort at its en-
trance. In September of the same year, Spain was again
called upon to indemnify those who had suffered in per-
son or property under the proclamation of blockade, or
from the interdiction of neutral commerce to the Spanish
Main. In October, the just reclamations of our Govern-
ment were, for the third time, formally made to the Go-
vernment of Spain. No satisfaction has been given ; no
indemnity has been promised; nor has there been even
a satisfactory excuse given for the delay to answer the
just demands of the Minister of the United States.
The character of the injury sustained, its origin, the
period elapsed since it was inflicted, the formal and
J fruitless demand for reparation for more than twelve
months, justify reprisals. An anxious desire not to act
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Gales, Joseph, 1761-1841. Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress, book, 1825; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc30752/m1/426/: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.