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Toucey, Isaac (1796-1869) to William McBlair

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00722.01 Author/Creator: Toucey, Isaac (1796-1869) Place Written: Washington, D.C. Type: Manuscript letter signed Date: 14 April 1857 Pagination: 5 p. : docket ; 36 x 22 cm.

Summary of Content: Sailing orders from the Navy Department. Placing McBlair in charge of the sloop of war "Dale," and commanding him to sail to the African coast to combat illegal slave trading. McBlair is ordered to join the "United States African Squadron" and to stop ships transporting illegal cargo or falsely flying the American flag. Written from the "Navy Department." Pages bound with a green ribbon. Isaac Toucey was the U.S. Secretary of the Navy. He also served as a Congressman and Senator from Connecticut, United States Attorney General, and Governor of Connecticut.

Background Information: William McBlair was a United States naval officer in command of the ship "Dale," responsible for catching illegal slave trading ships off the coast of Africa. Later served in the ...Confederate Navy.
Isaac Toucey was the Secretary of the Navy, and also served as a Congressman and Senator from Connecticut, United States Attorney General, and Governor of Connecticut.
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Full Transcript: Navy Department
April 14th 1857.
William McBlair
Commanding U.S. Sloop of War "Dale",
Norfolk, Va:

You have been placed in command of the United States Sloop of War "...Dale" to proceed to the Coast of Africa.
You will, therefore, so soon as that vessel shall be in all respects ready for sea, make sail upon, and proceed in her, without delay, to Porto Praya, Cape de Verde's, or, Funchal, Island of Madeira, where it is probable you will find the Command in Chief or Commanding Officer of the United States African Squadron, to either of whom, being present, you will report yourself and vessel as forming a part of that Squadron.
You will at all times bear in mind your general duties as the Commander of a Vessel of War of the United States; to protect the Citizens, Commerce and interests of your Country to the fullest extent in your power.
[2] The duty of maintaining a Naval force in the Coast of Africa is imposed on the Government of the United States, not only by motives of humanity and philanthropy, to prevent, as far as lies within its power, the abuse of our flag in the slave trade, but by Treaty stipulations with the Government of Great Britain, which, with the protection of our commerce and increasing the efficiency of our Navy, by affording active service to officers and crews of vessels Employed, will require constant attention.
There is reason to believe that the flag of the United States has been, and continues to be, used to cover the traffic in slaves, and it is supposed that no good citizen of the United States will complain that a cruiser of his own Country visits his vessel in order to ascertain her true character. But, he is, nevertheless, not to be exposed to unnecessary and vexatious detentions, nor to any harsh or uncivil treatment. While, therefore, the utmost vigilance is to be exerted to detect Slave traders, great care must be taken not to interfere unnecessarily with the Citizens of our own or other Countries in their lawful pursuits. The government does not acknowledge a right in any other Nation to visit [3] and detain the Vessels of American Citizens engaged in commerce.
The flag which the vessel wears is prima facie, although it is a mere emblem, and it loses its true character, where it is worn by those who have no right to wear it. Any vessel that displays the American flag claims to be American and, therefore, may be rightly boarded and Examined by an American Cruiser if there be any circumstances attending her to justify a suspicion that she is not what she professes to be. But, this privilege does not extend to the cruisers of any other Nation. The United States certainly does not claim that the mere hoisting of their flag shall give immunity to those who have no right to wear it. Such a pretension would subject their flag to degradation and dishonor, because it would make it a cover for piracy and other crimes of similar atrocity; but they do claim that, their own citizens who rightfully display it, shall have all the protection which it implies. Whenever, therefore, a cruiser of any other Nation, shall venture to board a vessel of the United States, she will do it upon her own responsibility for all consequences.
In conducting your command you will carefully abstain from the exercise of undue [4] prejudice or partiality towards any under you; such conduct in a Commanding Officer, tends, inevitably to discontent and insubordination. The observance of strict impartiality towards all will best promote the harmony and Efficiency of your Command.
The maintenance of discipline among Officers and crews of vessels of the Navy is an object requiring the unwearied solicitude of every officer placed in Command, and the zealous Coöperation of all subordinate to him. It is hoped that no Effort, on your part will be omitted to preserve [inserted: it] and that you will be met by the joint endeavors of every officer under you to maintain, the discipline of the Service and the Efficiency of your Ship.
The adoption of the apprentice System originated in the desire of the Department to raise up and gradually multiply the number of American Seamen. I cannot too earnestly impress upon you the importance of diligent and active Coöperation on your part, to effect this result. I commend, therefore, the Apprentice boys and the departmental regulations in regard to them, to your special attention.
[5] Before sailing from Norfolk, you will transmit to the Department a complete list, or Muster roll of the Officers and Crew of the "Dale" as required by the 29th Article of the Act of congress "for the better government of the Navy of the United States," approved April 23. 1800. A separate list of the Officers must also be transmitted.

I am very respectfully
yr obd't Servt
Isaac Toucey
Secretary of the Navy

Sailing Orders from Navy Dept.
April 14th. 1857
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People: McBlair, William, d. 1863
Toucey, Isaac, 1796-1869

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: AfricaAfrican American HistoryAfrican SquadronNavyMaritimeSlave TradeSlaveryAmerican FlagLawMilitary HistoryGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign Policy

Sub Era: Slavery & Anti-slavery

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