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McBlair, William (d. 1863) to Charles Wise

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00722.14 Author/Creator: McBlair, William (d. 1863) Place Written: s.l. Type: Letter signed Date: 12 October 1857 Pagination: 2 p. : docket ; 25 x 20 cm.

Summary of Content: Discussing the capture by a British ship of a vessel flying the American flag. Commodore Wise was the captain of the HMS "Vesuvius," which had recently captured the "Bremer." McBlair states that because the "Bremer was flying the United States flag, the British ship had no right to capture her. McBlair's docket notes "not sent.," possibly because the British ship's name has been misspelled as "Vesudius" in this copy. Written on board the U.S.S. "Dale." Slavers often flew the American flag to avoid capture by British ships, as the Royal Navy did not have a right to seize U.S. vessels. Once taken, however, slavers far preferred to be in British than American hands. Under American law, slave trading constituted piracy and bore a penalty of death by hanging. When the "Bremer" was boarded, her captain learned from the the HMS "Vesuvius" boarding party that the USS "Dale" was nearby. Rather than fall into her hands, he threw his falsified ship's papers and the American flag overboard, thus allowing the British to seize the vessel, as it was "without flag or papers." McBlair considered the British actions to be an unwarranted intrusion that allowed the slaver to escape American punishment and, incidentally, robbed the "Dale" of an important prize. His superior, Thomas Conover, filed a formal complaint with his British counterpart. The controversy forms part of the Secretary of the Navy's 1858 report to the president on the African Squadron, which was later released to Congress.

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.See More

People: McBlair, William, d. 1863
Wise, Charles, fl. 1857

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: AfricaAfrican American HistoryAfrican SquadronNavyMaritimeGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyLawAmerican FlagSlaverySlave TradeMilitary History

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