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Elliott, Jesse Duncan (1782-1845) to Isaac Mayo

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04604.14 Author/Creator: Elliott, Jesse Duncan (1782-1845) Place Written: s.l. Type: Manuscript Date: 15 November 1828 Pagination: 24 p. : address : docket ; 25.2 x 20 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Captain Elliott as commander of the West India Squadron to Lieutenant Mayo as commander of the schooner "Grampus" stationed off the coast of Cuba. This is a clerical copy, with clerical signature of Elliott, of general instructions to Mayo. Marked "Confidential." Says future official communications should be sent to him and copies sent to the Secretary of Navy. Says the government thinks it necessary to have a naval presence in the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico and has put him in charge of it. Says the Spanish blockade in the West Indies is illegal, but not to interfere without orders from him. Provides a very detailed account of the laws and treaties with Spain involving blockades. On pages 13-14 gives instructions on how to deal with the slaves brought in on illegal trade ships. Gives instructions on how to treat individual sailors. Previously bound, but pages 1-6 are separate, but still bound together, from the rest of the orders.

Background Information: The U.S.S. Grampus was involved in the Amistad incident in 1840. The ship was ordered by President Martin Van Buren to New Haven, Connecticut's harbor in January 1840 to smuggle ...the captive Africans back to the Spanish in Cuba. The ship did anchor in the harbor, but the plan was never implemented.See More

Full Transcript: [draft]

General Instructions and Confidential


The Schooner you command being placed by the Honb. the Secretary of the ...Navy under my orders, your official communications will in future be addressed to me. Should you however at any time when cruising separately have important communications to make to me, you will forward copies thereof to the Secretary of the Navy. it being desirable that the earliest information be communicated to him. In consequence of the many and frequent unlawful depredations committed by unlicensed cruisers, as also by those persons denominated Pirates and enemies to the human race, the Government of the U. States have deemed it necessary to employ an adequate Naval force in the W. Indies & Gulf of Mexico, and have confided it to me. Our efforts to afford a proper protection must be zealous and unceasing.
A principal & vexatious source of annoyance to our commerce will probably grow out of proclamations of blockade. Proclamation of itself does not constitute a lawful blockade. It is an established principle of international law that such a force must be employed in supporting it as will render an attempt to violate it extremely hazardous and deny to the Port so blockaded all ingriss and egriss. And our Government will expect that our unsuspecting countrymen, not charged with articles, Contraband of War, will have a timely warning. The legality of Blockade will therefore depend upon circumstances which sometimes may vary, and respecting which beforehand we cannot have accurate information. We are bound, morever, to presume where the capture is legally made, until the contrary is made to appear, that every neutral seized for an alledged breach of Blockade will have a fair and just trial and be adjudged by the belligerent according to the recognized principles of the Laws of Nations. In case, therefore, of meeting at Sea an American vessel under a lawful seizure for an alledged breach of Blockade, you will not molest her, but suffer her to be carried in for trial. Should any illegal condemnation take place, I will then decide on the propriety of directing you to release all similarly situated and thus detained by a belligerent.
That you may be enabled to fully understand the nature of our relations with Spain on this particular Subject, I have taken occasion to enumerate two Articles the 15th & 10th of a treaty between the U. States and the King of Spain, concluded October 27th 1785 and ratified March 3rd 1795 which have an immediate reference to this subject and which are as follows:
(note: here follows 4 ½ ms. pages outline of the treaty articles, including articles of a subsequent treaty, concluded Feb.1819, ratified Feb. 1822)
Thus you will perceive that the concession is not fully complied with in the absence of a treaty with Mexico. Yet when the fact is taken into consideration that the officer commanding the Mexcican Naval Forces whilst operating on the coast of Cuba, has invariably recognized this article, when the American Flag moves over the property of the subjects of his most Catholic Majesty, the King of Spain, room will be left for the exercise of a little diplomatic skill, which I trust you will not fail to employ.
Our relations with both the Governments of Spain and Mexico and the other South American States being friendly, we must so far as may be consistent with the maintainance of our our just rights and the National honor, endeavour to avoid committing those relations. The belligerent parties are entitled to equal rights from us. We must observe strictly our neutral character. Acts of kindness to either, though extended equally to the other may be misconstrued or misrepresented to the prejudice of the U. States. Should favours therefore be asked, you will decline and assign as your reason for so declining that your orders were peremptory not to compromise the neutrality of your Government.
It will readily occur to you that considering the situation in which we stand in relation to Spain and the South American States, the authority given under the act passed by Congress and having for its object the suppression of Piracy must be exercised with the utmost caution and prudence by our public armed vessels. The law being under the execution of the President of the U. States, your conduct will be regulated by your instructions although they may not go to the full length the law might probably warrant.
Under the second section of the act, authority is given to any seize, take and send into Port of the U. States any unarmed vessel or boat, the crew whereof shall be armed and which shall have attempted or committed any Piratical aggression, search, restraint, depredation or seizure upon any vessel of the U. States or the citizens thereof or upon any other vessel. From the generality of this latter description of vessels it would seem to embrace those of every nature or Country upon which any Piratical aggression may have been committed. Admitting the act might be extended thus for it does not appear to have been the general object of the Law and it is thought by the President most adviseable at present not to give it a like indiscriminate practical construction as to all vessels. The great object as pointed out in the first section of the act was to protect the Merchant vessels of the U. States and their crews from Piratical aggression. This will there-fore be considered your particular and special duty. If however you shall discover depredations upon other vessels committed under such gross and aggravated circumstances as to leave little doubt of their Piratical character, it will be your duty to capture and bring in the thus aggressors. It is thought most adviseable to distinguish in your instructions because among other considerations it will be sure that under the second section of the act you are only authorized to re-take vessels of the U. States or its citizens, which may have been unlawfully captured upon the high seas. No authority is given to retake the vessels of any foreign nation or country. You will also perceive under the second section of the act authority is only given to subdue, seize, and take such vessels or boats as shall have attempted or committed some Piratical aggression. Whatever will grow so suspicious (that) you may entertain that a vessel may have been fitted out & is intended to be employed in such depredations, you will not molest her unless you have satisfactory evidence that she has either attempted or actually committed some Piratical aggression on some merchant vessel of the U. States or her crew or upon some other vessel under the special circumstances above mentioned. This is to be considered an important and leading regulation in your conduct as it will be a strong and almost controlling circumstance (considering we are at peace with all the world) in making up your judgment whether you are safe, and justifiable in treating them as Pirates. Whenever, therefore, you shall find any boats or vessels, the crew whereof have committed any actual violence, outrage, or depredation upon any vessels of the U. States or the citizens thereof or any other vessels as above mentioned, you will consider yourself authorized to subdue, seize and take them and unlesson such capture you shall be 'satisfied that they were acting under some lawful authority and not Piratically to send them in for adjudication accompanied with the proof of their guilt. All captures made by you will be sent in to one of the following Ports: Boston, New York, Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah, or New Orleans.
You have also enclosed such parts of the several acts of Congress prohibiting the importation of Slaves into any Ports or places within the jurisdiction of the U. States, as are necessary to point out to you your duty and authority under these laws and it is expected and required of you that a strict and vigilent attention be paid by you to the directions therein contained, that if possible this inhuman and disgraceful traffic may be suppressed.
By the Act of the 20th April 1818 you will perceive that it is made unlawful to import or bring in any manner whatsoever in to the U. States or Territories thereof, from any foreign Kingdom, place or country, any negro, mullatto, or person of colour with intent to hold, use, or dispose of such person as a slave or to be held to service. By this act it is also made unlawful for any citizen of the U. States or other persons to build, equip, load, fit or otherwise prepare any ship or vessel in any Port or place within the jurisdiction of the U. States or to cruise any such ship or vessel to sail from any Port or place whatsoever within the jurisdiction of the U. States for the purpose of procuring and transporting any such slave to any Port or place whatever. And any ship or vessel employed in such importation of Slaves or so built, fitted out or prepared is both to be seized and forfeited. And by the act of the 3rd 0 March 1819 the President is authorized to employ any of the armed vessels of the U. States to cruise in such places as he may think proper, where he may judge attempts may be made to carryon the Slave trade by citizens of the U. States or inhabitants thereof in contravention of the acts of Congress prohibiting the same and to instruct such armed vessels to seize, take and bring into any Port of the U. States to be proceeded against according to law.
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People: Mayo, Isaac

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: Military HistoryNavyCaribbeanLatin and South AmericaBlockadeGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsLawTreatySlaverySlave TradeAfrican American HistoryPirates

Sub Era: The First Age of Reform

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