Page images
PDF
EPUB

RECOGNITION OF LIBERIA AND HAYTI.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JUNE 3, 1862.

Mr. SPEAKER, — After the excellent speech of my friend and colleague who introduced this bill [Mr. Gooch], any thing like elaborate argument is unnecessary; but I desire to state very briefly the reasons which will induce me to vote for it, and especially for that portion of it which recognizes the independence and establishes diplomatic relations with the Republic of Liberia. My interest in this State of Liberia was an early and strong one. Whether we look at its past history or at its probable future destiny, it is among the most interesting of modern States. The Government and people of this country sustain to it a near and intimate relation. It was planted by our care.

It is the fruit of the labors, the sacrifices, and the prayers of wise and good men among us.

Its existence is a slight atonement for the cruelty, the perfidy, the injustice, which by us, as by other Christian States, have been lavished on the continent of Africa, the land of God's sunshine and of man's hate. It is the outpost of her civilization; the opened gateway through which the arts of peace, social order and Christianity, may enter, and gain a permanent foothold.

That Liberia is of sufficient commercial importance to justify the institution of diplomatic relations with her, has been clearly shown. Every year will develop, quicken, and enlarge this commerce, if we choose to watch over and protect it. Our interests lie in the path of our duty.

I am not prepared, Mr. Speaker, to say that the recognition of an independent State,, although it may have sufficient power to maintain both commercial and political relations with us, is a matter of absolute duty under the law of nations. It is, perhaps, what moral writers would call a duty of imperfect obligation. But in respect to this colony, and to the men who have gone out from this country to plant and train it up, there has been from the beginning an assurance of the assistance, the counsel, and the protection of this Government; and the recognition on our part is required by good faith as well as sound policy. Other nations have preceded us in the recognition. It was our duty and privilege to have been first.

If there were no elements entering into the discussion of this question but the relations which the Republic of Liberia holds to-day to the rest of the civilized world, the importance of its commerce, of its capacity to maintain, as it has for years maintained, an independent Government, with the fact that two of the most powerful nations of the earth have already recognized its independence, there would have been no discussion of this bill. The only ground of objection is, that that State has been planted and built up by an inferior race

[ocr errors]

of men.

I have no desire to enter into the question of the relative capacity of races; but, if the inferiority of the . African race were established, the inference as to our duty would be very plain. If this colony has been built up by an inferior race of men, it has a yet stronger claim on our countenance, recognition, and, if need be, protection. The instincts of the human mind and heart concur with the policy of men and governments to help and protect the weak. To a child or to a woman I am to show a degree of forbearance, kindness, gentleness even,

which I am not necessarily to extend to my equal. But, sir, this colony is founded by black men, and not by white. If my friend from Ohio (Mr. Cox] had introduced a resolution that all commerce should be interdicted with the “ Black Sea," I should not have been more surprised. I am not aware that the law of nations or the comity of nations recognizes the distinction between black and white men; and it is rather late to attempt to ingraft it upon the code.

Upon the question of admission to the society of nations, the law looks to the capacity of the State to maintain self-government, its capacity for political and commercial relations, and its general conformity to the usages and manners of civilized States.

Mr. Cox. I ask my friend from Massachusetts, whether the law of nations does not apply now, without this recognition of Liberia and Hayti ; and whether we can make the law of nations apply by passing this act of Congress.

Mr. THOMAS. I will answer the question with pleasure. If, within the rules of the law of nations, the

States of Liberia and Hayti are now independent powers, then it is plain, that, by this resolution, we recognize only an existing status or fact. I do understand, Mr. Speaker, that the Republics of Liberia and Hayti to-day belong to the society of States: but what we have to pass upon now is, whether this nation will affirm their admission, and hold with them commercial and diplomatic relations; and, if so, to what extent? If the position of my friend from Ohio be right, as I dare say it is, that they are already independent States, then we are doing no harm, surely, in recognizing and confirming what other nations have done.

But the precise question is, whether we can fairly regard the fact of the color of the race by which the State has been built up and maintained in deciding this matter. My position is, that by no just application of the principles of international law can that distinction be made. Nor is the question before us a question of taste, much less of narrow prejudice. The question, whether a minister from a foreign State is to be received, is to be determined on higher grounds. Personal objections are sometimes interposed. Nations decline to receive as ministers persons whose residence would, by the laws or usages of the country, be inadmissible ; but I am not aware of rejection from the hue of the skin.

President Roberts, of the Republic of Liberia, was here some years ago. Many gentlemen will recollect him. No man who had seen him and conversed with him, or who knew any thing of his character, would for a moment object to his appearing here as a minister of that republic to this Government. Such a man would

not infect even the pure air of the capital, nor would he be much cowed by the presence of a superior race !

But, as I have before said, Mr. Speaker, this is not a question of taste. It is a question of the fair application of the principles of international comity; it is a question, whether this people have so built up a State as to have a fair claim to the recognition of this Government.

It is said, Mr. Speaker, that if we are to make this recognition, and to establish these relations, this is not the proper time to do so. Why not the proper time ? This State has been in a condition to maintain these relations with us for a number of years. But a portion of the representation of this country is absent! Not by our fault, Mr. Speaker. Congress is not to cease to exercise the functions of legislation because men or States are not here to attend to the public interests. If they choose to forego their privileges, we must, nevertheless, discharge our duties. If a few of our friends here should absent themselves from our discussions, we should not consider ourselves under any obligation whatever, on that account, to give up the ordinary work of legislation. I cannot be influenced by the consideration, that States have neglected the duty imposed upon them by the Constitution. We are to determine this question upon the same considerations and from the same motives as if this Rebellion had not occurred.

Mr. Speaker, so far from being deterred from this recognition by this question of race, I would make this recognition the sooner because it was some measure of atonement to a grossly wronged and injured race. While

« PreviousContinue »