Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 74
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APPENDIX— To Gales & Section's Register.
18th Congress, (
2tl Session. '
On the Slave Trade.
on its merits, it was moved to lay it on the table. _ The
yeas and nays having been ordered on this motion, it
■ was rejected by a majority of 78 to 35 members. It hav-
ing been again proposed to postpone the resolution, till
the ensuing or second session of the same Congress, and
this proposal being also determined in the negative, tils
resolution was engrossed, read the third time, passed,
and ordered to be transmitted to the Senate on the same
day with the piracy bill.
The amendments of this bill underwent like scrutiny,
and debate, in the Senate, and were finally concurred
in, the day after they were received from the House of
Representatives, without any division apparent on the
journal of that House.
The resolution which had been received by the Sen-
ate, at a different hour of the same day, was read a se-
cond time on the 15th of May, was further taken up
and considered, as in committee of the whole, reported
to the House without amendment, and ordered, without
debate, to pass to a third reading. But this being the
last day of the session of,Congress, and a single mem-
ber objecting " that it was against one of the rules of
the Senate to read itathird limeon the same day, with-
out unanimous consent," it remained on the table of
that body, on its final adjournment, after an ineffectual
effort tosuspend one of their rules, against which many
of the friends of the resolution felt themselves compel-
led, by their invariable usage, to vote in union with its
One of the objections to the resolution, in the Senate,
■was founded upon the peculiar relation of that branch of
the National Legislature to the Executive, in the ratifi-
cation of treaties; which seemed, in the opinion of those
who urged this argument, to interdict their concurrence
in a request of the President to institute any negotia-
A cotemporary exposition of the object of the amend-
ments of the piracy bill, and the resolution, which the
House of Representatives adopted, by so large a major-
ity, will be found in the report, which accompanied
them, from the committee on the suppression of the
slave trade, on the 8th May, 1822. Those objects, it will
be seen, were in perfect accordance with each other.
They were designed to introduce, by treaty, into the
code of international law, a principle, deemed by the
committee essential to the abolition of the African slave
trade, that it should be denounced and treated as pira-
cy by the civilized world.
The resolution being joint, and having failed in the
Senate, for the reason already stated, the subject of it
was revived in the House of Representatives, at a very
early period of the succeeding session of Congress, by a
call for information from the Executive, which, being re-
ceived, was referred to a committee of the same title
with the last. Their report, after reviewing all the an.
tecedent measures of the United States for the suppres-
sion of the slave trade, urgently recommended the co-
operation of the American and British navy against this
traffic, under the guarded provisions of a common trea-
ty, authorizing the practice of a qualified and reciprocal
right of search.
This report closed with a resolution, requesting " the
President of the United States to filter into such ar-
rangements as he might deem suitable and proper, with
one or more of the maritime powers of Europe, for the
effectual abolition of the African slave trade."
The United States had, by the treaty of Ghent, enter-
ed into a formal stipulation wi\h Great Britain, "that
both the contracting parties shall use their best endea-
vors to accomplish the entire abolition of this traffic "
Tilt failure of the only joint attempt which had been
made by England and America, at the date of this re-
port, to give effect to this provision, being ascribed, in
part, to a jealousy of the views of the former, corrobo-
rated by the language and conduct of one of the princi-
pal maritime powers of Europe, in relation to jthe same '
topic, the committee referred to the decision of Sir VYil- -f
liam Scott, in the case of the French ship Le Louis, to <
demonstrate that Great Britain claimed no right of search, f
in peace, but such as the consent of other nations should 'i
accord to her by treaty ; and sought it by a fair ex- - i
change, in this tranquil mode, only for the beneficent I
purpose of a more enlarged humanity. :
Certain facts, disclosed by the diplomatic correspond- I
ence of France and England, during the pendency of '
that case, in the British Court of Admiralty, were calcu-
lated io guard the sympathies of America from being
misguided by the language of the former power.
The painful truth was elicited, that France had evad-
ed the execution of her promise at Vienna, to Europe
and mankind. That she had, long after the date of that
promise, tolerated, if she had not cherished, several
branches of a traffic, which she had concurred in de-
nouncing to be the opprobrium of Christendom, and
which she had subsequently bound herself, by the high-
er obligations of a solemn treaty, to abolish, as inconsist-
ent with the laws of God and Nature.
Succeeding events in the councils of the French na-
tion have not impaired the force of this testimony.
What authority can be accorded to the moral influence
of a Government which insults the humanity of a gene-
rous and gallant people, by pleading, in apology for the
breach of its plighted faith, that its subjects required
the indulgence of this guilty traffic !
The Emperor Napoleon, who re-established this com-
merce on the ruins of the French lie public, also abolish-
ed it again, when he sought to conciliate the people of
France, during that transient reign, which immediately
preceded his final overthrow.
Congress adjourned without acting on this report.
By an instruction to the Committee oil the Suppres-
sion of the Slave Trade, of the 15th of January, 1822,
the same subject was a third time brought directly be-
fore the House of Representatives. The instruction
called the attention of the committee to the present con-
dition of the African slave trade ; to the defects of any
of the existing laws for its suppression, and to their ap-
propriate remedies. In the report made in obedience
to this instruction, on the 12th of April. 1822, the com-
mittee state, that, after having consulted all the evidence
within their reach, they are brought to the mournful
conclusion, that the traffic prevailed to a greater extent
than ever, and with increased malignity ; that its total
suppression, or even sensible diminution, cannot be ex-
pected from the separate and disunited efforts of one or
more states, so long as a single flag remains to cover it
from detection and punishment, They renew, therefore,
as the only practicable and efficient remedy, the con-
currence of the United States with the maritime powers
of Europe, in a modified and reciprocal exercise of the
right of search.
In closing their reporl, the committee add, in effect,
that they " cannot doubt that the people of America
" have the intelligence to distinguish between the right
" of searching a neutral on the high seas, in time of war,
" claimed by some belligerants, and that mutual, re-
" stricted, and peaceful concession, by treaty, suggested
"by your committee, and which is demanded'in the
" name of suffering humanity." The committee had
before intimated, that the remedy which they recom-
mended to the House of Representatives, presupposed,
the exercise of the authority of another department of
the Government, and that objections to the exercise of
this authority, in the mode which they had presumed to
suggest, had hitherto existed in that department. Their
report closed with a resolution differing in no other re-
spect from that of the preceding session, than thtjjjtdid
not require the concurrence of the Senate, for the rea-
son already suggested.
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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/m1/450/: accessed May 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.