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and confiscation of American vessels under them; and assuring the American merchants that, for whatever they might unlawfully lose, the government of the United States would take care that they should be indemnified. I brought that to the notice of the Senate heretofore; and upon that ground, among others, they have twice sanctioned a bill providing for the payment of losses by French spoliations. The notice published by Mr. Webster was of the same character and effect. Since that time, the “ Mississippi,” a steam war frigate of the United States, has been ordered to those waters, to cruise there for the protection of American fishermen in the enjoyment of their just rights. Thus ends the whole story of these transactions about the fisheries. The difficulties on the fishing grounds have "this extent, no more"—they are the wonder of a day and no longer.
No negotiation has been had between the President of the United States and the English government. No negotiation is now in progress between the two governments. No negotiation has been instituted between the two governments, for any purpose whatever. No overture of negotiation has been made by the British government since the last year, and no overture has been made by the American to the British government. So, then, it appears that nothing has been negotiated away at the cannon's mouth, because there has been no negotiation at all, either at the cannon's mouth or elsewhere. There has been no negotiation under duress, because there has been no pretence of a design by the Imperial government to enforce its rigorous construction of the convention of 1818, or to depart from the position of neutrality, if I may so call it, always heretofore maintained. All the change is, that, in August, 1851, the British government had 134 guns on that station; and now, in August, 1852, it has 101 guns; and this famous Sir Charles Seymour, who sweeps away, not only fishermen's smacks, but also the icebergs coming down from Hudson's Bay and off the coast of Labrador, with his “broom," is the admiral of the whole station of British North America-a field of duty which reaches from Central America to the North Pole. He has two head-quarters : one at Bermuda, in the winter; and the other at Halifax, in the summer. This same Admiral Seymour was in those seas with his broom last year, just as he is this year, and yet he excited no alarm then. He has four trusts to execute for his government with the small force at his command,
of which his flag-ship constitutes the largest portion. The first of these is to protect British rights in the vicinity of Cuba, just as the United States last year sent a vessel to maintain their rights and perform their duties there. His next duty is to secure British rights at Greytown, just exactly as the United States ought to have had a vessel there to secure their rights. The third duty is to watch Solouque, the Emperor of Hayti, to prevent him from subjugating the Dominican colony, which the British government is bound to do by an arrangement existing between the United States, Great Britain, and France; and the fourth duty is to pro tect British rights in these fisheries against encroachments and abuses by whomsoever may come along. The season of fishing is in the summer; and, therefore, the admiral arrives at Halifax with his broom during that season; and perhaps, also, he comes north because the weather is more pleasant. There have been since that time some seizures—four or five, I believe; but, in this there has been nothing new. I have before me a list of seizures of American vessels for the violation of the provisions of the convention of 1818, from the year 1839 to the year 1851. They amount in the whole to twenty-eight vessels, and it is insisted by the Imperial government that they were all made on the grounds of violation and abuses of the convention of 1818, as construed by ourselves.
There may have been mistakes, and probably instances of oppression, but the British government is understood to have disclaimed any such. More or less of these seizures have been brought to the notice of the government of the United States from 1839 to this time. Yet there has been no war—no declaration of war; but, on the contrary, there has been the most pacific spirit on both sides which could be imagined. In 1836, Mr. Forsyth, the then Secretary of State, was so pacific and friendly, that he informed Mr. Bankhead, by direction of the President, that
masters, owners, and others, engaged in the fisheries,” were to be informed by the collectors “that complaints had been made, that they were enjoined” to the strict limits assigned for taking fish under the convention of 1818. So in that year the Secretary of the Treasury addressed a circular letter to the collectors of customs, directing them to instruct the American fisherman not to encroach“ upon the fishing grounds secured exclusively to British
fishermen by the convention of 1818.” So in 1839, Mr. Vail, acting Secretary of State, in an official communication, said :
“ Under the supposition that many of the seizures had been made upon insufficient grounds, and in order, if possible, to preclude for the future the recurrence of such proceedings, the acting Secretary of State, in a note dated the 10th of July, called the attention of the British Mivister to the cases of seizure which had come to the knowledge of the department, and requested him to direct the attention of the provincial authorities to the rụinous consequences of the seizures to the owners of the vessels, whatever might be the issue of the legal proceedings instituted against them, and to exhort them to exercise great caution and forbearance in future, in order that American citizens, not manifestly encroaching upon British rights, should not be subject to interruption in the pursuit of their lawful vocations."
Sir, I think you now see that the present administration has roared, in tones of defiance of Great Britain, at least as loud as these utterances of the administrations of Mr. Van Buren and of General Jackson. It has been a ground of censure, and a ground of complaint and a cause of excitement here, that no notice was given by the British government to the United States, that they had changed their construction of the treaty. That is all right. It is a good ground of complaint, provided the condition holds. If they had changed the construction of the treaty, they ought to have given us notice; but if they had not changed, then the complaint of want of notice must fail.
It has been complained here that the President withheld information. It is enough to know that he had nothing official worth communicating; and that, when requested, he furnished all that he had.
If I have been successful, I have shown the Senate that there is not in the present difficulties about the fisheries any ground of alarm-precisely for the reason that nothing new has occurred. That circumstances remain just exactly as they were; that there is no ground to apprehend a war, because the dispositions of the British government remain just as pacific as they were before ; and the dispositions of the colonies to retaliate were well known before ; and that if there were reasons for censure in any quarter, it must fall elsewhere, and not on the administration. The President transferred the subject to Congress last December. The Senate implies that this was right, because it rejects the idea of negotiation. Who, then, has a right to complain? Is it Congress, that the executive has not acted? or is it the administration, that Congress has been silent?
I shall be told, indeed, that the notice of the British minister
was ambiguous. But it was no more ambiguous than the wellunderstood reserve practiced by that government for a dozen and more years past.
The executive is not to be censured for not having resisted the British force, for there has been none there in hostility to resist. It has not resented indignity, because there has been no indignity offered. This is so, unless the government of the United States shall claim a right to prescribe to the government of Great Britain what portion of her naval force, and of what kind, she shall maintain on this station, and what on that. I should like to see how the Senate of the United States would regard a notice from the British government, that we must send not more than one, or two, or five, or ten, war steamers, or ships of the line, off the coast of Nicaragua, or into the Mediterranean. The executive has acted with all sufficient promptness, and, when it seemed necessary, the
Mississippi” was sent into those waters. From accounts received, it appears that Commodore Perry found the British authorities adhering practically to our own construction of the convention of 1818. What is the Mississippi to do? She must not protect fishermen who according to our own construction are encroaching; and those who are not, seem to need no protection.
Sir, it has been complained by the honorable Senator from Louisiana, Mr. SOULE) that Mr. Webster conceded too much in his official notice of July 6, 1851. Now, here is Mr. Webster's language. After quoting the treaty, he says:
“ It would appear that, by a strict and rigid construction of this article, fishing vessels of the United States are precluded from entering into the bays,” &c.
And, in the same connection, he adds :
It was undoubtedly an oversight in the convention of 1818 to make so large a concession to England.”
That is to say, it was an oversight to use language in that convention, which, by a strict and rigid construction, might be made to yield the freedom of the great bays.
It is then a question of mere verbal criticism. The Secretary does not admit that the rigorous construction is the just and true one. And so he does not admit that there is any “concession,” in the sense of the term which the honorable senator adopts. Now, other honorable senators, if I recollect aright—and particularly that very accurate and exceedingly strong-minded senator, the gentleman from Massachusetts, [Mr. Davis)—conceded that
the treaty would bear this rigorous construction, insisting, nevertheless, just as the Secretary of State did, that it was a forced and unjust one. The Senator from Louisiana dissents from him and other senators, and maintains that it will not bear that construction at all ; because he says that the other portions of the convention show that the “bays” described must be bays within the British dominions. He adds that, in order to bring a bay within the dominion of any power, it must be such that its passage to the sea shall not exceed six miles in width, and that the shores on both sides belong to the power claiming dominion over the water. I cannot assent to the force of this argument of the honorable Senator from Louisiana. I am the more inclined to go against it, because I believe it is getting pretty late in the day to find the Secretary of State wrong in the technical and legal construction of an instrument. Let us test the argument. The honorable senator says, that where the government occupies both sides of the bay, and where the strait through which the waters of the bay flow into the ocean is not more than six miles wide, then there is dominion over it.
Now, sir, the Gut of Canso is a most indispensable communication for our fishermen from the Atlantic Ocean to the Northumberland Straits and to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, for a reason which any one will very readily see by referring to the map; yet the Gut of Canso is only three-quarters of a mile wide. I should be sorry to adopt an argument which Great Britain might turn against us, to exclude us from that important passage.
Again I recall the honorable senator's argument, viz.: “Two things unite to give a country dominion over an inland sea. The first is, that the land on both sides must be within the dominion of the government claiming jurisdiction, and then that the strait is not more than six miles wide ; but that if the strait is more than six miles wide, no such jurisdiction can be claimed.” Now, sir, this argument seems to me to prove too much. I think it would divest the United States of the harbor of Boston, all the land around which belongs to Massachusetts or the United States, while the mouth of the bay is six miles wide. It would surrender our dominion over Long Island Sound—a dominion which I think the State of New York and the United States would not willingly give up. It would surrender Delaware Bay; it would surrender, I think, Albemarle Sound and the Chesapeake Bay; and I believe