No. 290. [1st Session.
SUPPRESSION OF PIRATICAL ESTABLISHMENTS.
REPORTED ON JANUARY 10, 1818.
The Committee on Foreign Relations, to whom was referred so much of the President's message as relates to the illicit introduction of slaves from Amelia island, having carefully taken the matter committed to them into consideration, respectfully report:
That, having applied to the Department of State for information respecting the illicit introduction of slaves into the United States, they were referred by the Secretary of State to the documents transmitted to this House by the President's message of the 15th of December last, consisting of various extracts of papers on the files of the Departments of State, of the Treasury, and of the Navy, relative to the proceedings of certain persons who took possession of Amelia island in the summer of the past year, and also relative to a similar establishment previously made at Galvezton, near the mouth of the river Trinity.
Upon a full investigation of these papers, with a view to the subject committed to them, your committee are of opinion that it is but too notorious that numerous infractions of the law prohibiting the importation of slaves into the United States have been perpetrated with impunity upon our southern frontier; and they are further of opinion that similar infractions would have been repeated, with increasing activity, without the timely interposition of the naval force, under the direction of the Executive of our Government.
In the course of their investigation, your committee have found it difficult to keep separate the special matter given into their charge from topics of a more general nature, which are necessarily interwoven therewith; they
therefore crave the indulgence of the House while they present some general views connected with the subject, which have developed themselves in the prosecution of their inquiry.
It would appear, from what can be collected from these papers, that numerous violations of our laws have been latterly committed by a combination of freebooters and smugglers of various nations, who located themselves, in the first instance, upon an uninhabited spot, near the mouth of the river Trinity, within the jurisdictional limits of the United States, as claimed in virtue of the treaty of cession of Louisiana by France. This association of persons organized a system of plunder upon the high seas, directed chiefly against Spanish property, which consisted frequently of slaves from the coast of Africa; but their conduct appears not always to have been regulated by a strict regard to the national character of vessels falling into their hands, when specie, or other valuable articles, formed part of the cargo. Their vessels generally sailed under a pretended Mexican flag, although it does not appear that the establishment at Galvezton was sanctioned by, or connected with, any other Government. The presumption, too, of any authority ever having been given for such an establishment is strongly repelled, as well by its piratical character, as its itinerant nature; for the first position at Galvezton was abandoned on or about the 5th of April last, for one near Matagorda, upon the Spanish territory; and at a later period, this last was abandoned and a transfer made to Amelia island, in East Florida, a post which had been previously seized by persons who appear to have been equally unauthorized, and who were, at the time of the said transfer, upon the point, it is believed, of abandoning their enterprise, from the failure of resources, which they expected to have drawn from within our limits, in defiance of our laws. There exists on the part of these sea rovers an organized system of daring enterprise, supported by force of arms; and it is only by a correspondent system of coercion that they can be met, and constrained to respect the rights of property and the laws of nations. It is deeply to be regretted that practices of such a character, within our immediate neighborhood, and even within our jurisdictional limits, should have prevailed unchecked for so long a time; the more especially as one of their immediate consequences was to give occasion to the illicit introduction of slaves from the coast of Africa into these United States, and thus to revive a traffic repugnant to humanity, and to all sound principles of policy, as well as severely punishable by the laws of the land.
By the seventh section of the act prohibiting the importation of slaves, passed in 1807, the President is fully authorized to employ the naval force to cruise on any part of the United States, or territories thereof, where he may judge attempts will be made to violate the provisions of that act, in order to seize and bring in for condemnation all vessels contravening its provisions, to be proceeded against according to law.
By the joint resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives, of the 15th of January, 1811, and the act of the same date, the President is fully empowered to occupy any part or the whole of the territory lying east of the river Perdido, and south of the State of Georgia, in the event of an attempt to occupy the said territory, or any part thereof, by any foreign Government or Power; and by the same resolution and act he may employ any part of the army and navy of the United States which he may deem necessary for the purpose of taking possession of and occupying the territory aforesaid, and in order to maintain therein the authority of the United States.
Among the avowed projects of the persons who have occupied Amelia island was that of making the conquest of East and West Florida, professedly for the purpose of establishing there an independent Government; and the vacant lands in those provinces have been, from the origin of this undertaking down to the latest period, held out as lures to the cupidity of adventurers, and as resources for defraying the expenses of the expedition. The greater part of West Florida being in the actual possession of the United States, this project involved in it designs of direct hostility against them; and, as the express object of the resolution and act of January 15, 1811, was to authorize the President to prevent the province of East Florida from passing into the hands of any foreign Power, it became the obvious duty of the President to exercise the authority vested in him by that law. It does not appear that among these itinerant establishes of republics and distributers of Florida lands there is a single individual inhabitant of the country where the republic was to be, constituted, and whose lands were to be thus bestowed. The project was, therefore, an attempt to occupy that territory by a foreign Power. Where the profession is in such direct opposition to the fact; where the venerable forms by which a free people constitute a frame of government for themselves are prostituted by a horde of foreign freebooters, for purposes of plunder; if, under color of authority from any of the provinces contending for their independence, the Floridas, or either of them, had been permitted to pass into the hands of such a Power, the committee are persuaded it is quite unnecessary to point out to the discernment of the House the pernicious influence which such a destiny of the territories in question must have had upon the security, tranquillity, and commerce of this Union.
It is a matter of public notoriety, that two of the persons who have successively held the command at Amelia island, whether authorized themselves by any Government or not, have issued commissions for privateers, as in the name of the Venezuelan and Mexican Governments, to vessels fitted out in the ports of the United States, and chiefly manned and officered by our own countrymen, for the purpose of capturing the property of nations with which the United States are at peace. One of the objects of the occupation of Amelia island, it appears, was to possess a convenient resort for privateers of this description, equally reprobated by the laws of nations, which recognise them only under the denomination of pirates, and by several of the treaties of the United States with different European Powers, which expressly denominate them as such.* It was against the subjects of Spain, one of the Powers with which the United States have entered into stipulations prohibiting their citizens from taking any commission from any Power with which she may be at war, for arming any ships to act as privateers, that these vessels have been commissioned to cruise; though, as the committee have observed, no flag, not even that of our own country, has proved a protection from them.
The immediate tendency of suffering such armaments, in defiance of our laws, would have been to embroil the United States with all the nations whose commerce with our country was suffering under these depredations, and, if not checked by all the means in the power of the Government would have authorized claims from the subjects of foreign Governments for indemnities at the expense of this nation, for captures by our people in vessels fitted out in our ports, and, as could not fail of being alleged, countenanced by the very neglect of the necessary means of suppressing them.
The possession of Amelia island, as a port of refuge for such privateers, and of illicit traffic in the United States of their prizes, which were frequently, as before stated, slave ships from Africa, was a powerful encouragement and temptation to multiply these violations of our laws, and made it the duty of the Government to use all the means in its power to restore the security of our own commerce, and of that of friendly nations upon our coasts, which could in no other way more effectually he done than by taking from this piratical and smuggling combination their place of refuge.
*See the treaty of peace with France, 1778, art. 21st, United States' Laws, vol. 1, p. 88; with the Netherlands, 1782, art. 19, vol. 1, p. 162; with Sweden, 1783, art. 23, vol. 1, p. 190; with Great Britain, 1794, art. 21, vol. 1, p. 218; with Prussia, 1785, art. 20, vol. 1, p. 238, and 1797, art. 20, p. 256; with Spain, 1795. art. 14, vol. 1, p. 270.
In order, therefore, to give full effect to the intentions of the Legislature, and in pursuance of the provisions of the above-recited resolution and acts, it became necessary, as it appears to the committee, to suppress all establishments of the hostile nature of those above described, made in our vicinity, the objects of which appear to have been the occupation of the Floridas, the spoliation of peaceful commerce upon and near our coasts by piratical privateers, the clandestine importation of goods, and the illicit introduction of slaves within our limits. Such establishments, if suffered to subsist and strengthen, would probably have rendered nugatory all provisions made by law for the exclusion of prohibited persons. The course pursued on this occasion will strongly mark the feelings and intentions of our Government upon the great question of the slave-trade, which is so justly considered by most civilized nations as repugnant to justice and humanity, and which, in our particular case, is not less so to all the, dictates of a sound policy.
Your committee anticipate beneficial results from the adoption of these measures by the Executive, in the promotion of the security of our southern frontier and its neighboring seas, and in the diminution of the evasions, latterly so frequent, of our revenue and prohibitory laws. The experience of ten years has, however, evinced the necessity of some new regulations being adopted, in order effectually to put a stop to the further introduction of slaves into the United States. In the act of Congress prohibiting this importation, the policy of giving the whole forfeiture of vessel and goods to the United States, and no part thereof to the informer, may justly be doubted. This is an oversight which should be remedied. The act does, indeed, give a part of the personal penalties to the informer, but these penalties are generally only nominal, as the persons engaged in such traffic are usually poor. The omission of the States to pass acts to meet the act of Congress, and to establish regulations in aid of the same, can only be remedied by Congress legislating directly upon the subject themselves, as it is clearly within the scope of their constitutional power to do.
[The following documents are extracted from those referred to in the aforegoing report.]
Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury to the Secretary of State, dated
November 21, 1817.
The Secretary of the Treasury presents his respects to the Secretary of State, and has the honor of transmitting to him copies of the communications which have been received at this Department concerning the occupation of Galvezton and Amelia island by persons sailing under the various flags of the independent Governments of North and South America, late Spanish provinces.
Extracts of a letter from Beverly Chew, Esq., collector at New Orleans, to Mr. Crawford, dated
August 1, 1817.
As it is your wish that every attempt to evade the provisions of the existing laws should be communicated to the Department, accompanied by suggestions of the measures necessary to repress the evil, I deem it my duty to state that the most shameful violations of the slave act, as well as our revenue laws, continue to be practised, with impunity, by a motley mixture of freebooters and smugglers, at Galvezton, under the Mexican flag, and being, in reality, little else than the re-establishment of the Barrataria band, removed somewhat more out of the reach of justice; and, unless the officers of the customs are provided with more effectual means for the enforcement of the laws, the treasury must suffer incalculably. To give you a more correct idea of this establishment, it will be necessary to be a little prolix, which I beg you will excuse. Galvezton is a small island or sand-bar, situate in the bay of St. Bernard, on the coast of Texas, about ninety miles west of the Sabine, within the jurisdictional limits claimed by the United States, in virtue of the cession of Louisiana to them by France. The establishment was recently made there by a Commodore Aury, with a few small schooners from Aux Cayes, manned, in a great measure, with refugees from Barrataria and mulattoes. This establishment was reinforced by a few more men from different points of the coast of Louisiana, the most efficient part of them being principally mariners, (Frenchmen or Italians,) who have been hanging loose upon society in and about New Orleans, in greater or smaller numbers, ever since the breaking up of the establishment at Barrataria. Colonel Perry commanded one party of about eighty or ninety men of this new community, who had been enlisted principally as soldiers within our jurisdiction; and Mr. Herarra, coming with a few followers from New Orleans, brought up the rear; and then announced the establishment to the world by a proclamation, attested by a Frenchman by the name of Morin, very recently a bankrupt auctioneer in New Orleans, as Secretary of State. From this new station, fed and drawing all its resources from New Orleans, and keeping up a regular intelligence, through a variety of channels, with their friends here, an active system of plunder was commenced on the high seas, chiefly of Spanish property, but often without much concern as to the national character, particularly when money was in question. The captures made by their numerous cruisers (many owned by citizens of the United States) were condemned by a pretended court of admiralty there as prizes, and the cargoes introduced into this State, principally in a clandestine manner. The vessels thus condemned have generally come here under new names, and with the Mexican flag. Some of them have been detained by the United States naval force for hovering in our waters, and others have been libelled for restitution by the Spanish consul, in behalf of the original owners; and though several trials have come on before the honorable the United States district court for the district of Louisiana, and the claimants have never been able to produce proof of the Government of Galvezton having ever been authorized by the Mexican republic, restitution has been decreed in several instances. There is no evidence of the establishment having been made or sanctioned by, or connected with, a Mexican republic, if one be now existing; and the presumption of such an actual establishment under such an authority is strongly repelled by the illegal and piratical character of the establishment, and its ambulatory nature. It is not only of very recent origin, but is clothed with no character of permanency; for it was abandoned about the 5th of April, and transferred to Matagorda, leaving at Galvezton only an advice boat, to advertise such privateers and prizes which might arrive there of the spot on which they had fixed their new residence. Some days after the abandonment of Galvezton, several privateers arrived there, and among the rest the General Artigas, commanded by one G. Champlin, of New York, with two schooners, her prizes, the Patronila, with one hundred and seventy-four slaves, and the Enrequita, with one hundred and thirteen slaves; and also a Spanish and a Portuguese vessel, and the American schooner Evening Post, of New York, Calvin Williams, master, prizes to the -----, Captain Maurice Nicholas Jolly.
Among the most conspicuous characters who happened to be then at Galvezton were many of the notorious offenders against our laws who had so lately been indulged with a remission of the punishment, who, so far from gratefully availing themselves of the lenity of the Government to return to or commence an orderly and honest life, seem to have regarded its indulgence almost as an encouragement to a renewal of their offences. You will readily perceive I allude to the Barratarians, among whom the Lafittes may be classed foremost, and most actively engaged
in the Galvezton trade, and owners of several cruisers under the Mexican flag. Many of our citizens are equally guilty, and are universally known to be owners of the same kind of vessels. A number of these characters being at Galvezton after the abandonment, readily saw the advantages that would result in the re-establishment of a Government at that place; its situation, so immediately in the vicinity of our settlements, being much preferable to Matagorda; their views being entirely confined to introducing their captures into this State. Accordingly, a meeting was called on the 15th of April, and it was resolved to re-establish the Government; and a true copy of their deliberations you have enclosed. I can vouch for the correctness of the copy, having received it from a person of undoubted veracity. And thus, without even the semblance of authority from the Mexican republic, they immediately proceeded to condemn vessels and cargoes as good prizes, and to introduce them into this port, and, among the rest, the cargo of the Evening Post. It was some time before this was known here, great pains having been taken to keep it secret. Since it has been known, I have felt it my duty to report all vessels and cargoes which have arrived here from Galvezton to the district attorney, who has had them arrested under the Spanish treaty; but, owing to the unfortunate absence of the judge, no decision can be had thereon. These steps of the officers of the port have irritated the Barratarian gentlemen and their connexions in a high degree; and representations filled with falsehoods will probably be made against them, particularly on the score of enmity to the patriotic cause. As well might a man be accused of being an enemy to personal liberty who arrests and confines a robber, as that the officers of the port of New Orleans should be accused of being unfriendly to the revolution in the Spanish provinces because they attempted to prevent a lawless establishment at Galvezton from violating the laws. The prizes made by the privateers under the Mexican flag are to a very large amount of merchandise, such as jewelry, laces, silks, linens, britannias, muslins, seersuckers, calicoes, &c; all of which are repacked in small bales, of convenient size for transportation on mules, and the greatest part introduced clandestinely. Other articles, such as iron, nails, tallow, leather, glass ware, crockery, cordage, beef, &c, are brought here in their prizes. It is stated, and universally believed, that Captain Champlin sold the slaves captured in the Patronila and Enrequita to the Lafittes, Sauvinet, and other speculators in this place, who have or will resell to the planters; and the facility offered to smugglers by the innumerable inlets are too obvious, on a view of the map, to doubt; but they either are or will be all introduced into this State, without the possibility of the officers of the revenue being able to prevent or punish them; more especially as a great portion of the population are disposed to countenance them in violating our laws. A few days ago, information having been given that one of our citizens had gone to the W. with a very considerable sum in specie, to purchase slaves for himself and two other planters, I determined to make an effort to arrest him on his return, and immediately purchased a fine boat on account of the Government, (which had been lately captured by a party I had sent on Lake Ponchartrain, and condemned for a violation of the slave act,) which I have sent under the command of an active, enterprising inspector, with a military guard of twelve men, and am in great hopes of his falling in with and capturing the party. I am persuaded you will approve of my not writing for instructions, at the risk of seeing the laws violated with impunity; and I cannot but hope the Government will see the necessity of giving instructions to the naval force on this station to prevent the re-establishment of Galvezton; otherwise the bay will no longer be safe for any flag. Since they have been denied shelter in Port au Prince, they have no other asylum than Galvezton. On the part of these pirates we have to contend with, we behold an extended and organized system of enterprise, of ingenuity, of indefatigability, and of audacity, favored by a variety of local advantages, and supported always by force of arms; and, unless they be met by correspondent species of resistance, the results of the contest are of very simple calculation.
You will, I trust, see the necessity of either granting a certain number of revenue cutters, of the description I have mentioned, or that the naval force on this station may be enjoined strictly to prevent these privateers from hovering in our waters and violating our laws. It is a fact you may rely on, all the cruises of these privateers commence and end at this port; they enter in distress, comply with the formalities of the law, and if they do not augment their force and renew their crews in port, they do it in our waters, and it is not in my power to prevent it.
Mr. Chew, collector at New Orleans, to Mr. Crawford.
August 30, 1817.
In the communication which I had the honor to make you, under date of 1st instant, I gave such information respecting the establishment at Galvezton as I had collected; since then, the depositions of Messrs. J. Ducoing and V. Garros, (ex-judges of admiralty at that place, and now here,) have been taken; and I herewith transmit you copies, which go to substantiate the material fact stated by me, and I make no doubt but you will be satisfied of the correctness of the assertion, that the establishment of Galvezton is nothing more or less than one of privateers-men, without even the shadow of a connexion with a Mexican republic, (if such a republic exists,) and, as such, will not, I presume, be countenanced by the Government of the United Slates. It has been reported to me, and from a source deserving credit, that the principal part of the force from Matagorda and Soto de la Marina had returned to Galvezton, and that two prizes with slaves have recently arrived—one a schooner, with a full cargo, said to be three hundred, (probably exaggerated;) that a contagious fever having made its appearance among the slaves, the privateersmen, apprehensive of its communicating to the other prize, cut the cables and sent the schooner adrift with the unfortunate beings on board!—the other prize, a ship, with four hundred slaves, was lying there; and they have, altogether, about six hundred and fifty slaves on hand, all of whom are intended to he introduced into this State.
The United States brig Boxer has sent in two small schooners, with thirty slaves on board, captured in our waters; and the deputy collector of the district of Teche writes me that he has seized fifteen, and was in pursuit of a larger number. At this moment I have sent two confidential inspectors to examine three plantations on this river, near Baton Rouge, information having been given me that one hundred had been purchased for the three at Galvezton. This activity has occasioned some alarm, and I am informed (and place complete confidence in it) that the privateersmen and others interested have resolved to remove the slaves to the neighborhood of the Sabine, build barracks, and keep them there during the winter, or till the purchasers appear, and leave the risk of introducing the slaves to the planters, whose eagerness to procure them will induce them to run every hazard. They imagine that, fixing themselves to the west of the Sabine, they will be without the jurisdiction of the United States; but I trust they will find their mistake only when the whole party will be seized.
In addition to the foregoing, I beg leave to refer you to the documents lately forwarded by Commodore Patterson to the honorable Secretary of the Navy, with the memorial of some of the most respectable merchants of this place, praying him to furnish convoy to protect their vessels trading with the Spanish ports from the piratical cruisers, who respect no flag when specie is in question.
I have lately sent an inspector of confidence to examine La Fourche, from the Mississippi to the sea, and he reports it as thickly settled for eighty miles from the river; has eight to ten feet water, and six feet on the bar at
the mouth, or entrance into the sea. There is no obstacle whatever to craft entering it from the sea, and ascending to the Mississippi, and trading freely as high up as they please. I mentioned in my last the necessity of appointing an inspector for that place, if you decide not to have revenue cutters on this station. I cannot but repeat, that I am firmly persuaded the measure is more necessary for this than any other district in the United States. Bartholomew Lafon, of this place, who acted as secretary to the meeting of the 15th April, (copy of deliberation forwarded in my last,) is mentioned as the Governor of the new establishment near the Sabine. Lafitte is now purchasing a large quantity of provisions, and the first cargo will soon sail; a copy of the manifest will accompany this, or soon follow. These persons, and a long list of others I could add if necessary, have no other profession, occupation, or mode of livelihood, than privateering and violating our laws, and openly threaten revenge against any officer of the revenue that may molest or impede their pursuits. They are now preparing a memorial to the Department, with the double view to misrepresent the conduct of the officers of the port, and to obtain permission to introduce their illegally-captured property, under the false pretext that they (the memorialists) have made heavy advances; the truth is, the only advances they allude to is the equipment and fitting out privateers, contrary to our laws. The exports from this place to Galvezton and Matagorda have consisted principally of provisions; a cargo of arms was sent some time in the fall of last year, which has long since been given up as lost, and no return whatever can ever be expected from the Mexican Government, from all present appearances. The imports (without taking into consideration the large amount of goods introduced clandestinely) have been very large, as you will observe by the enclosed abstract of duties secured at this office on these importations.
I have felt it my duty to give you this information for your correct understanding the nature of the establishment at Galvezton, and cannot but hope you will be pleased to instruct me implicitly how to act. My conduct has been governed by a sense of duty, and from a conviction of its propriety; if I have erred, I hope it will be ascribed to an honest zeal.
I am, &c. BEVERLY CHEW.
P. S. The brig with provisions and lumber for the winter quarters of the slaves attempted to clear to-day; but, owing to the informality of her papers, it is postponed till Monday. I enclose a list of private armed Mexican and Venezuelan vessels now in port.
List of Mexican armed vessels now in the port of New Orleans, commissioned by Awry.
Bellona, Dewatre, 6 guns, 55 men; commissioned March 4, 1817.
Calibra, Deverge, 1 gun, 30 men; commissioned April 4, 1817.
Diana, Requete, 6 guns, 40 men; commissioned May 9, 1817.
Esperanza, Goits, 2 guns, 18 men; commissioned November 24, 1816.
Mosquito, Jaret, 7 tons, 17 muskets; commissioned June 23, 1817.
Victory, Dewatre, 5 guns, 60 men; commissioned July 5, 1817.
The following commissioned by General Bolivar, (Venezuela.)
General Arismanda, Beleriche, 5 guns, 114 men; commissioned May 8, 1816.
Guerera, Rustique, 3 guns; commissioned August 20, 1816.
Hidalgo, Sauvenet, 1 gun, 50 men; commissioned January 24, 1817.
Josefina, Quere, 1 gun; commissioned May 19, 1816.
Eugenia, Lemeson, 3 guns, 60 men; just sailed on a cruise.
Mr. Chew to Mr. Crawford.
October 17, 1817.
My communications of the 1st and 30th of August last, relative to the establishment at Galvezton, and the numerous cruisers under the Mexican flag that infest our waters, will, I trust, have reached your hands. I deem it my duty to trouble you once more upon the same subject, and to enclose copies of additional testimony of Mr. John Ducoing, late judge of admiralty, and of Mr. Raymond Espagnol, late Secretary of State, which will, I trust, satisfactorily prove my assurances of the piratical nature of the establishment, and justify, in your opinion, the officers of this port in the steps taken by them to put an end to it; for such, it appears, has been the effect of the measures adopted here. Late advices from that place state that Aury and Champlin, with their privateers and prizes (said to be thirteen sail) evacuated the place, and, it is believed, they have steered their course for Amelia island. Before their departure, they disposed of about three hundred Africans to the agents of some planters on this river; the remainder they have taken with them. The deputy collector of the district of Teche writes me that a large gang of Africans passed near the church of Attacapas on the night of the 14th ultimo, bound for the Mississippi. He heard of it too late to seize them. I have sent a confidential agent to watch the plantations of Joseph Erwin, James Still, and Christopher Adams; it being reported that the latter had been to Galvezton to purchase slaves for himself and the others. I received, a few days ago, a letter from the person called Commodore Aury, dated at sea, 31st July last, on board the privateer Mexican Congress, (late Calypso, of Baltimore,) enclosing a duplicate of a letter which, it appears, he had thought proper to write to me on the 28th of the same month, (the original of which has never come to hand.) In this letter he gives me a kind of official information that it has been determined to abandon Galvezton, and that he had taken with him the judge of the admiralty, the collector, and all his other constituted authorities; and that whatever may be done at the place, after that date, Will be without his approbation or consent, and any clearances or other official acts at that place illegal. I have no doubt, however, but that a new establishment will be soon made there. The advantages are too great to be voluntarily abandoned by persons who have so long enjoyed the profits. Early in September, two vessels, the Carmelite, belonging to B. Lafon, and the Franklin, belonging to J. B. Laforte, (both unregistered vessels, formerly prizes,) cleared at this office for Laguna, but really bound to Galvezton, with provisions and materials for erecting buildings. On their arrival they found the place deserted, and the Franklin has returned to this port with her outward cargo. By her, accounts have been received that the Carmelite was lying there, and that Lafitte (who had been pardoned for the crimes committed at Barrataria) and Lafon had arrived there, with about forty other persons, and, it is believed, intended to form an establishment, and will, no doubt, soon replace the judge and other authorities carried off by Aury. Private armed vessels, under the Mexican flag, and one or two under that of Venezuela, continued to frequent this port, and uniformly report in distress, (one case only excepted,) make protest, and obtain a certificate from the wardens of the port that there is necessity to unlade their armament and heave down. They have been thus admitted to an entry, free of any charge other than fees to the officers of the customs,
under the sixtieth section of the collection law. This course seems to have been adopted by my predecessor, and has been followed by me, in compliance with the instructions from the Department of 3d July, 1815. These armed vessels being admitted, great care has been taken not to permit any violation of the acts of 5th June, 1794, and 3d March last, by augmenting their force or enlisting American citizens; but, in defiance of every vigilance on the part of the officers of the customs, they violate the law, not whilst they remain in port, but before they leave our waters. Nothing is easier, when the privateer is completely repaired and ready for sea, than to send both men and guns, if they need them, to Barrataria, or any other convenient place, which the privateer repairs to, and takes them on board, and sails on a cruise with an augmented force, to commit hostilities against the persons and property of a nation with whom the United States are at peace.
It is universally reported, and believed, that many of these vessels (under the Mexican flag, and commissioned by Aury) are owned by persons resident here, and enjoying the privileges of American citizens. At the end of the cruise the same farce is played over again; and it may with truth be said that each cruise commences and ends at this port. Attempts have been made to convict them, but as yet without success. They easily exculpate themselves. Witnesses, on their part, are never difficult to be procured in a place where there are a vast number of people with whom the solemnity of an oath has little weight. This you will believe when I add that two witnesses were produced in the United States district court, in the month of May last, who swore that Galvezton was a considerable and well-built town, with coffee-houses, shops, &c., and that the then constituted authorities (Durier, Ducoing, Espagnol, &c.) had been appointed and commissioned by Aury. The testimony of the two latter, as well as many other persons now here, will fully refute that falsehood.
I hope you will be pleased to give me some instructions relative to the cruisers, that I may act in a way to meet the views of the Executive.
I have the honor to be, &c.
To the Honorable Dominic A. Hall, judge of the district court of the United States in and for the district of Louisiana: The petition of Beverly Chew, collector of the district of Mississippi, and one of the officers of the port of New Orleans, respectfully showeth
The facts set forth in the annexed affidavit, and prays an order pursuant thereto, commissioning some judge or justice of the peace in the city of New Orleans to take the depositions of the said witnesses in the said cause, at such time and place as to your honor shall seem meet.
And, as in duty bound, &c.
Signed and sworn to before me, this 6th day of October, 1817,
Justice of the peace for the fifth section of New Orleans.
The United States district court, Louisiana district:
The United States, in behalf, &c., vs. cargoes of Juana, Eliza, Carmelita, and Diana. The same, vs. brigs Diana and Juana, schooners Eliza and Carmelita. The same, vs. ninety boxes sugar.
The same, vs. sundry goods, &c, part of schooner Mount Vernon's cargo.
City of New Orleans, to wit:
Beverly Chew, collector, one of the officers of the port of New Orleans, being duly sworn, deposes and says: That Raymond Espagnol and John Ducoing, as this deponent is advised and believes, are material witnesses on the part of the prosecution in the above cases, and without the benefit of whose testimony the trial on the said behalf cannot safely be proceeded in; that the said witnesses are, as this deponent is informed and believes, about permanently to depart the United States, and before, in the common course of proceeding, the said causes can be brought to trial; so that, unless a commission issue for taking the depositions of the said witnesses prior to their intended departure from the United States, as aforesaid, the prosecution, he apprehends and believes, will be deprived of the evidence of the said witnesses.
Additional testimony taken in sundry causes depending in the United States district court for the Louisiana district, on behalf of the United States, against sundry vessels and cargoes from Galvezton.
John Ducoing being duly sworn, the deponent further says: That the establishment at Galvezton was composed, as before stated, by persons of various nations, and that the sole view and object of the persons comprising the said establishment was to capture Spanish vessels and property, without any idea of aiding the revolution in Mexico, or that of any other of the Spanish revolted colonies, as far as this deponent knows and believes. And the deponent says, that during the time he exercised the functions of judge at Galvezton, he had no knowledge of or belief in the existence of a Mexican republic, or other Government, independent of the Spanish Government.
The deponent further says, that the Government established on the 15th day of April had no connexion whatever with any other government, state, or people; that Galvezton stands on a small island, or rather a small sand-bar, a few miles long and broad, and was a desert when taken possession of by Aury, known by the name of Snake island, without a port or harbor, and no buildings, except a few huts or cabins, probably three or four, made of boards and sails of vessels.
And further this deponent saith not.
Sworn and subscribed before me, this 7th day of October, 1817,
R. CLAIBORNE, Clerk.
Mr. Raymond Espagnol, being duly sworn, says: That, on the 16th day of March last, this deponent went from this place to Galvezton, in the province of Texas, in the brig Devorador, for the purpose of disposing of merchandise. Aury was acting as governor. This deponent accepted of no office or employment under Aury,
nor had he any acquaintance with him; never took any oath of allegiance to Aury; that, on the 5th of April last, Aury and General Mina abandoned Galvezton, burned the huts and cabins there were standing, and left no person, authorized by them or otherwise, to form a Government. After their departure, to wit, on the 15th of April, 1S17, the persons then at Galvezton consisted of about thirty or forty in number, including sailors, &c., six of whom assembled on board of the schooner Carmelita, (belonging to Mr. Bartholomew Lafon, late of New Orleans, and engineer in the service of the United States,) to wit, Durier, John Ducoing, Pereneau, said B. Lafon, Rousselin, and this deponent, who formed the new Government. The proceedings were drawn up and signed by those present, by which certain persons aforesaid took upon themselves offices, namely:
Durier, governor; John Ducoing, judge of admiralty; this deponent, notary public and secretary; Pereneau, major du place; Rousselin, collector.
At the meeting on the 15th April, there was no paper or document produced, authorizing the same, or giving them power to form a Government.
The deponent further says, that the sole object and view of the persons comprising the establishment at Galvezton was, as far as he knows and believes, to capture Spanish property under what they called the Mexican flag, but without an idea of aiding the revolution in Mexico, or that of any of the Spanish revolted colonies; and further, that during the time that this deponent acted as notary public and secretary to the new Government at Galvezton, he had no knowledge or belief in the existence of a Mexican republic, or any Government in Mexico, independent of the Spanish authorities; further, the deponent says, that the new Government established at Galvezton on the 15th of April, 1817, had no connexion whatever with any other nation, state, or people.
That Galvezton stands on a small sand-bar, a few miles long and broad, and was a desert when taken possession of by Aury, known by the name of Snake island; without a port or harbor, and no buildings, except three or four cabins, built of boards and sails of vessels.
Further, this deponent says, that some time in the month of May last, when some of the merchandise and vessels from Galvezton were libelled by the Spanish consul in behalf of the Spanish owners, application was made to this deponent to appear before the Honorable Judge Hall, and to prove that the authorities appointed by the meeting at Galvezton, on the 5th of April last, were appointed and commissioned by Aury. This application was explicitly stated to be on behalf of those interested in the Galvezton establishment, particularly of Mr. Bartholomew Lafon and Mr. J. Bte. Laporte, the former of whom was known to be indebted to this deponent in a sum of 10 or $1200; this deponent refused informing the person by whom the application had been made; that if the deponent appeared, he would tell the truth, and should prove that the persons forming the Government at Galvezton (after 15th April) were not named by Aury. This deponent was not summoned as a witness, though it was known he was in the city, and has continued since to reside here. The deponent says that this is the true reason why he was not summoned to appear before the judge at the time when Messrs. Rieux and Pereneau appeared.
Sworn and subscribed before me, this 7th day of October, 1817,
R. CLAIBORNE, Clerk.
Extract.—Mr. Mcintosh to Mr. Crawford.
The Refuge, near Jefferson, Camden County, October 30, 1817.
The last letter I had the honor to address you was on the 9th of August; shortly after which the public papers announced that you had left Washington on a visit to Georgia. A few weeks after, I thought it not imprudent to venture out to my swamp plantation on the Sotillo, and since have been very little at St. Mary's. Since General McGregor and the greater part of his officers (some of whom were men of respectable standing in the United States) have left Amelia island, there has not been so much ingenuity made use of in misrepresenting the conduct and intentions of the invaders of East Florida; and the accounts which are published of them are, for the most part, generally correct. The present chief, Commodore Aury, got the command very much against the inclinations of Sheriff Hubbert and Colonel Irwin. When he arrived at Fernandina with his squadron of privateers and prizes, they were entirely without money. He declared "that if he gave them any aid, it must be on the condition of being made commander-in-chief; and that, as General McGregor never had any commission whatever, the flag of the Florida republic must be struck, and that of the Mexican hoisted; and that Fernandina should be considered as a conquest of the Mexican republic, (under which he was commissioned,) without its being necessary that any other part of the province of East Florida should be conquered." Hubbert and Irwin reluctantly agreed to the mortifying condition of resigning the command. They were never friendly with the commodore, and endeavored, but in vain, to gain over by intrigue a part of his men. Their own party considerably increasing shortly after, they were several times on the point of coming to open war with Aury and his followers, and under the pretence that Aury's forces were composed chiefly of brigand negroes. A few days before Mr. Hubbert's death, (who was called Governor, without having any power,) Aury marched to his quarters with a body of armed men, and obliged him to make such concessions as drove him to an act of intemperance, which soon after terminated his existence.
Since the death of this gentleman there has been little or no disturbance among them. But it would appear as if the suspicions of the Frenchman did not die with Hubbert, as none of his privateers have yet left Fernandina.
The parties are designated as the American and French: and I have been assured, by individuals belonging to them both, that each is anxiously looking for reinforcements. Aury has a number of Frenchmen, who were, it is said, officers of Bonaparte. They find it their interest, as well as inclination, to support their countryman. His great dependance, however, is on about one hundred and thirty brigand negroes, a set of desperate bloody dogs.
The American party, which is rather more numerous than the other, consists generally of American, English, and Irish sailors; but now has no declared leader. Irwin wants either spirit or popularity to assume that character. For my own part, 1 believe that, in point of morals, patriotism, and intentions, they are exactly on a par. Aury's blacks, however, make their neighborhood extremely dangerous to a population like ours; and I fear that if they are not expelled from that place, some unhappy consequences may fall on our country. It is said that they have declared, that if they are in danger of being overpowered, they will call to their aid every negro within their reach. Indeed, I am told that the language of the slaves in Florida is already such as is extremely alarming. The patriots at Fernandina had, about ten days ago, an unexpected and strange reinforcement. Twenty half-pay British officers, by the way of Turk's island, arrived at St. John's river, and, mistaking it for Amelia, a colonel and a couple of others were made prisoners by the Spaniards. The others got safe to Fernandina; but, finding that General Sir Gregor McGregor had abandoned it, they determined immediately on doing so too.
[The following message and documents relating to this subject were communicated to Congress January 13, 1818.]
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States: January 13, 1818.
I have the satisfaction to inform Congress that the establishment at Amelia island has been suppressed, and without the effusion of blood. The papers which explain this transaction I now lay before Congress.
By the suppression of this establishment and of that of Galvezton, which will soon follow, if it has not already ceased to exist, there is good cause to believe that the consummation of a project fraught with much injury to the United States has been prevented. When we consider the persons engaged in it, being adventurers from different countries, with very few, if any, of the native inhabitants of the Spanish colonies; the territory on which the establishments were made—one on a portion of that claimed by the United States westward of the Mississippi, the other on a part of East Florida, a province in negotiation between the United States and Spain; the claim of their leader, as announced by his proclamation on taking possession of Amelia island, comprising the whole of both the Floridas, without excepting that part of West Florida which is incorporated with the State of Louisiana; their conduct while in the possession of the island, making it instrumental to every species of contraband, and in regard to slaves of the most odious and dangerous character, it may fairly be concluded that, if the enterprise had succeeded on the scale on which it was formed, much annoyance and injury would have resulted from it to the United States.
Other circumstances were thought to be no less deserving of attention. The institution of a Government by foreign adventurers in the island, distinct from the colonial Governments of Buenos Ayres, Venezuela, or Mexico, pretending to sovereignty, and exercising its highest offices, particularly in granting commissions to privateers, were acts which could not fail to draw after them the most serious consequences. It was the duty of the Executive either to extend to this establishment all the advantages of that neutrality which the United States had proclaimed and have observed in favor of the colonies of Spain, who, by the strength of their own population and resources, had declared their independence, and were affording strong proof of their ability to maintain it, or of making the discrimination which circumstances required. Had the first course been pursued, we should not only have sanctioned all the unlawful claims and practices of this pretended Government in regard to the United States, but have countenanced a system of privateering in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere, the ill effects of which might, and probably would, have been deeply and very extensively felt. The path of duty was plain from the commencement, but it was painful to enter upon it while the obligation could be resisted. The law of 1811, lately published, and which it is therefore proper now to mention, was considered applicable to the case, from the moment that the proclamation of the chief of the enterprise was seen; and its obligation was daily increased by other considerations of high importance already mentioned, which were deemed sufficiently strong in themselves to dictate the course which has been pursued.
Early intimations having been received of the dangerous purposes of these adventurers, timely precautions were taken, by the establishment of a force near the St. Mary's, to prevent their effect, or it is probable that it would have been more sensibly felt.
To such establishments, made so near to our settlements, in the expectation of deriving aid from them, it is particularly gratifying to find that very little encouragement was given.
The example so conspicuously displayed by our fellow-citizens that their sympathies cannot be perverted to improper purposes, but that a love of country, the influence of moral principles, and a respect for the laws, are predominant with them, is a sure pledge that all the very flattering anticipations which have been formed of the success of our institutions will be realized. This example has proved that, if our relations with foreign Powers are to be changed, it must be done by the constituted authorities, who alone, acting on a high responsibility, are competent to the purpose; and, until such change is thus made, that our fellow-citizens will respect the existing relations by a faithful adherence to the laws which secure them.
Believing that this enterprise, though undertaken by persons some of whom may have held commissions from some of the colonies, was unauthorized by and unknown to the colonial Governments, full confidence is entertained that it will be disclaimed by them, and that effectual measures will be taken to prevent the abuse of their authority, in all cases, to the injury of the United States.
For these injuries, especially those proceeding from Amelia island, Spain would be responsible, if it were not manifest that, although committed in the latter instance through her territory, she was utterly unable to prevent them. Her territory, however; ought not to be made instrumental, through her inability to defend it, to purposes so injurious to the United States. To a country over which she fails to maintain her authority, and which she permits to be converted to the annoyance of her neighbors, her jurisdiction for the time necessarily ceases to exist. The territory of Spain will, nevertheless, be respected, so far as it may be done consistently with the essential interests and safety of the United States. In expelling these adventurers from these posts, it was not intended to make any conquest from Spain, or to injure in any degree the cause of the colonies. Care will be taken that no part of the territory contemplated by the law of 1811 shall he occupied by a foreign Government of any kind, or that injuries of the nature of those complained of shall be repeated; but this, it is expected, will be provided for, with every other interest, in a spirit of amity, in the negotiation now depending with the Government of Spain.
From the Secretary of War to the President of the United States.
January 12, 1818.
I have the honor to transmit copies of the orders which have been given by the acting Secretary of War to Major Bankhead, in relation to taking possession of Amelia island, and copies of the communications which have been made to this Department by that officer, which embrace all the information in my possession.
I have the honor to be, &c.
J. C. CALHOUN.
United States ship John Adams, off Amelia, December 22, 1817.
We have received orders from our Government to take possession of Amelia island, and to occupy the port of Fernandina with a part of our force, which will be moved over as soon as it will be convenient for your troops to evacuate it.
To avoid unnecessary delay, we think proper at this time to inform you, in the event of your acquiescence in this demand, that you will be at liberty to depart with the forces under your command, and such property as belongs unquestionably to them will be held sacred.
You are to leave the public property found by General McGregor at Fernandina in the same condition it was taken, and the property of the inhabitants of Amelia island must be restored to them, where they have been forcibly dispossessed of it; and no depredations on private property, from this period, will be permitted with impunity.
Should you, contrary to the expectations of the President of the United States, refuse to give us peaceable possession of the island, the consequences of resistance must rest with you.
We have the honor to be, &c.
J. D. HENLEY, Captain in the navy, and Commander-in-chief of the naval forces of the United States, off Amelia.
JAMES BANKHEAD, Major 1st battalion artillery, United States army, and commanding military forces.
General Aury, Commander-in-chief of the forces at Fernandina.
Head-quarters, Fernandina, Island of Amelia, Gentlemen: December 22, 1817, (8th of the Independence.)
I have had the honor to receive your official letter of this day. The nature of its contents requiring mature deliberation, I have submitted the same to the representatives of the republic, and, as soon as I shall have obtained their opinion, it shall be immediately sent to you.
I can, however, state to you, gentlemen, that no opposition will be made to surrender the island of Amelia on the part of this Government.
I have the honor to remain, &c.
Commodore J. D. Henley, Major Bankhead, &c.
On board the United States ship John Adams.
Head-quarters, Fernandina, Island of Amelia, Gentlemen: December 22, 1817, (8th of the Independence.)
I have received your official letter of this day, by which, in the name of the Government of the United States, you summon us to evacuate this place with the troops under my command, as possession thereof is to be taken by the forces under your commands, under certain conditions therein specified.
This republic, that of Mexico, nor any other of South America, being at war with the United States, obliges me to state to you that the contents of your letter have greatly surprised this Government and the people of the state. You have, nevertheless, intimated that, in case of our acquiescence to your demand, we shall be permitted to evacuate this is land, which never was nor ever has been a part of the United States. Allow me, gentlemen, to observe to you, that, from the moment we took Fernandina by the force of our arms, we entered into the full possession of all the rights appertaining to our enemy, and that to this day we have supported these rights at the risk of our lives and fortunes. The boundaries of the Floridas and the United States having been fairly settled by the treaty of friendship, limits, and navigation, on the 22d of October, 1795, leaves us at a loss to ascertain your authority to interfere in our internal concerns.
Our surprise increases when we reflect that your communication comes as authorized by the Government of a people who glory in their respect for the rights of nations, whether great or small, and who, no doubt, sympathize and wish success to their southern brethren in the struggle for liberty and independence in which they are engaged, as were the United States forty years ago.
On the other side, you promise to hold sacred such of our properly as unquestionably belongs to our citizens. Who is to be the judge in this case? The United States, who can by no means claim any kind of jurisdiction from the source of the river St. Mary's down to the ocean, on this side of the centre of the channel! We entertain too much veneration for your constitution to believe for a moment that you, supposed already in possession of this island, which has never been ceded by the King of Spain, or by its inhabitants, to the United States, can bring with you a competent tribunal to decide upon this question. The only law you can adduce in your favor is that of force, which is always repugnant to republican Governments and to the principles of a just and impartial nation. The same observation may be applied to your interference with the property of the inhabitants, which we have always respected and considered as sacred.
You order us, also, as if we were subjects of your Government, to leave behind, when Fernandina is evacuated, all the public property that was found at its surrender. This demand is directly contrary to the public rights by which all public property captured by the enemy is avowedly that of the captors, when not otherwise stipulated. Are you acting in the name of the King of Spain or his allies? As we consider the people of the United States as unquestionably the only free people on the surface of the globe, we cannot admit that you have now become the adherents of a tyrant; otherwise, your demand is inadmissible and unjustifiable in the eyes of the world; and if we must yield to it, all the blame rests with you.
Permit me, therefore, gentlemen, to request of you to lay before the President of the United States these remarks, in order that a matter of so serious a tendency may be reconsidered. We have read his excellency's message at the opening of Congress with the utmost concern, and I have concluded that the political situation of this republic has been greatly misrepresented in the United States, through the intrigues of our enemies. We have certainly a right to be heard, for which purpose I shall have the honor of forwarding to your Government the necessary documents. If you are not disposed to let things remain in statu quo until the President's further determination be known, I am authorized to assure you that we respect and esteem too highly the people of the United States to carry matters to extremities.
I have the honor to remain, &c.
J. D. Henley, Esq., Captain in the United States navy, &c. James Bankhead, Esq., Major of the 1st battalion of artillery, &c.
United States ship John Adams, off Amelia Island, December 23, 1817.
We have had the honor to receive your communication of the 22d instant, and will briefly remark, that, as officers in the service of the United States, we are bound to obey the orders emanating from the authorities of our
Government, without any discussion or animadversion on our part as to the correctness of them. We have been ordered by the President of the United States to take possession of Amelia island; and as the President has expressed his solicitude that the effusion of blood may be avoided, if possible, it must be gratifying to us to be informed by you that no resistance will be made to us.
We will again remark, that private property will be sacred, and that our orders extend only to the public properly captured by General McGregor at Fernandina.
We propose to land a force to-day, and to hoist the American flag; under that flag, no oppression or unjust measures will ever be witnessed. And we feel assured that there will be no difficulties in the arrangement made by us.
The squadron will immediately sail into the harbor, when the commanding officer of the land forces will wait on the commander-in-chief to make the necessary arrangements for the landing of the troops. We have the honor to be, &c.
J. D. HENLEY, Captain in the navy, &c. J. BANKHEAD, Major 1st battalion artillery, &c. Gen. Aury, Commander-in-chief of the forces at Fernandina.
Head-quarters, Fernandina, Island of Amelia,
December 23, 1817, and 8th of the Independence.
I have had the honor to receive your letter of this date. I am ready to surrender this place to the forces under your command, whenever you may judge proper to come and take possession thereof.
I have the honor to be, &c.
J. D. Henley, Esq., Captain in the navy, &c.
James Bankhead, Esq., Major 1st battalion U. S. artillery, &c.
Department of War, July 17, 1817.
Circumstances having made it necessary to occupy, without delay, Point Petre and the St. Mary's river, by a military and naval force, I have to request that you will instruct the officer whom, in pursuance of the order issued through the adjutant general, you may detail to take command at Point Petre, to co-operate with the officer commanding the naval force on that station, in such measures as may be deemed necessary for the preservation of the peace and tranquillity of that section of the country, which there is reason to apprehend may be disturbed in consequence of the contest between the Spanish royalists and patriots for the occupation of the adjacent territory. The officer will also be instructed to use due vigilance to prevent the violation of the revenue laws of the United States, and in particular to prevent the illicit introduction of slaves into the United States; and, in order to do this the more effectually, he will prohibit all vessels freighted with slaves from entering the river St. Mary's. I have the honor to be, &c.
The Officer commanding at Charleston, S. C.
Extract of a letter from George Graham, acting Secretary of War, to Major James Bankhead, Charleston, South Carolina, dated
November 12, 1817.
I am instructed by the President to direct you to repair immediately to Point Petre, with the effective force under your command, leaving only an officer and a few men as a guard at Forts Moultrie and Johnson. Captain Wilson has been ordered to repair with his company now at Fort Johnson, North Carolina, to Point Petre; and a detachment of new recruits, under the command of Captain Hook, who was on his route to join the 4th infantry, has also been ordered to that place. The troops enumerated above, and those now stationed at Point Petre, will constitute a force of more than two hundred men, of which you will take the command, until the arrival of General Gaines. A remittance of five thousand dollars has been made to your battalion quartermaster, whom you will take with you; and you will make requisitions for the necessary supply of provisions on the contractor's agents. It will be advisable to take from Charleston, a supply of salted meat, and a sufficient quantity of flour and hard bread to serve two hundred and fifty men for thirty days at least.
Department of War, November 12, 1817.
It appearing to the satisfaction of the President that the persons who have lately taken possession of Amelia island have done it without the sanction of any of the Spanish colonies, or of any organized Government whatever, and for purposes unfriendly to and incompatible with the interests of the United States, he has decided to break up that establishment, and take temporary possession of Amelia island. For this purpose the troops ordered to assemble at Point Petre will co-operate with the naval force which has been ordered to St. Mary's under the command of Captain Henley.
It is the anxious wish of the President that this should be accomplished without the effusion of blood; and he confidently hopes that the force destined for the purpose will be of such an imposing character as to induce those persons who now have the military occupation of the island to abandon it without the exercise of force; but if it should be found to be indispensably necessary, force must be used. You will, therefore, immediately on the arrival of Captain Henley at St. Mary's, and in conjunction with him, despatch an officer to demand the abandonment of the island by those who now exercise authority there, and take such other measures as may be deemed proper to obtain the peaceable possession of it; also for the preservation of the property of those persons who were residents of the island when it was first captured by General McGregor. Should your demand for the evacuation of Amelia be complied with, you will then occupy with a part of your force the position of Fernandina, and take care that the cannon and other implements of war which belonged to the port, when captured by General McGregor, are not taken off.
If peaceable possession of the island, however, cannot be obtained, and it should be the opinion of Captain Henley and yourself that your joint forces are not competent to the prompt and certain reduction of the naval and military forces which may then occupy the harbor and post of Fernandina, you will, in that event, make a requisi-
tion on General Floyd, or such other officer as may command that division of the militia of Georgia in which Point Petre is situated, for a force not exceeding five hundred men, to be held in readiness to march at a moment's warning, and await the arrival of General Gaines, who has been ordered to Point Petre, for ulterior measures.
You will take with you from Charleston the necessary military stores, and such heavy cannon as may be required for the reduction of the fort on Amelia island, in the event of resistance.
As no answer has been received to the communication addressed to you from this Department on the 17th July last, it becomes necessary to request that the receipt of this may be acknowledged, and that you also advise this Department regularly of your movements.
I have the honor to be, &c.
Major James Bankhead, commanding at Charleston, S. C.
Fernandina, Amelia Island, December 24, 1817.
I have the honor to lay before you the correspondence held with General Aury, the late commander of this place, and to inform you that the American flag was raised here yesterday afternoon.
Several days will elapse before General Aury can withdraw his followers; but I have taken every measure to insure tranquillity, by ordering all his black soldiers to be embarked on board one of the ships lying in the port, and by not suffering any person to appear in the town with arms, but his officers; and the moment their vessels are prepared to receive the whole of them, they shall depart.
Most of the inhabitants of this place, at this time, are followers of Aury, and those persons who have been drawn here from motives of speculation, who are, I suspect, of that profligate character generally engaged in the violation or evasion of our revenue laws. I shall, therefore, consult with Commodore Henley, and will enforce such regulations as may be most likely to preserve order, until I receive instructions from the Government.
Until this place is completely evacuated by this band of negroes and privateersmen, I have deemed it prudent to keep the whole of my force here. On their departure I shall move all but one company to Point Petre.
I have the honor to be, &c.
JAS. BANKHEAD, Major 1st battalion artillery, S. D., commanding detachment U. S. troops.
George Graham, Esq., acting Secretary of War.
Fernandina, Amelia Island, December 27, 1817.
I had the honor to forward to the War Department, on the 24th instant, a copy of the correspondence with General Aury, previous to the landing of the troops under my command; and I herewith send a duplicate of the same.
Some difficulty has arisen from a want of competent authority to settle the disputed claims of the residents of this place against the late Government and the followers of Aury, who do not seem disposed to comply with their engagements.
One or two vessels have arrived here with cargoes, which the owners are desirous to land; and it might be improper to permit it, without obtaining security for the duties which the laws of the United States require; and other vessels, loaded in this port, have met with some delay in clearing for their destination; but the counsel of General Gaines, who arrived here last night, will regulate my conduct, and will, in a great measure, relieve my anxiety.
I have been obliged to exercise my authority, as commanding officer at this place, to preserve order; and I am happy to say that nothing unpleasant has occurred. I cannot say when General Aury and his party will sail. Their vessels are much out of order, and their arrangements to that effect progress but slowly. The morning after I landed I ordered all the black and French troops to be embarked on board some of their vessels; but the crews of their privateers, and many others of all nations, whom it is difficult to restrain from violence and excess, are still here.
Until I am honored with your instructions, I hope that the course I may pursue may meet the approbation of the President.
General Gaines leaves this for the western frontier of Georgia the day after to-morrow.
I have the honor to be, &c.
JAS. BANKHEAD, Major 1st battalion artillery, and commanding this port.
To the honorable the Secretary of War.
Navy Department, January 13, 1818.
I have the honor to enclose, herewith, copies of orders to Captain John H. Elton and Commodore John D. Henley, in relation to Amelia island; also a letter from the latter officer, communicating information of the surrender of that place to the military and naval force of the United States, together with the correspondence which took place on that occasion.
I have the honor to be, &c.
B. W. CROWNINSHIELD.
To the President of the United States.
Navy Department, July 16, 1817.
Proceed immediately with the United States brig Saranac under your command to the river St. Mary's in Georgia, and inform the military commander of your arrival, and of the objects specially designated to you in these orders.
The recent occupation of Amelia island by an officer in the service of the Spanish revolutionists occasions just apprehensions that, from the vicinity to the coast of Georgia, attempts will be made to introduce slaves into the United States contrary to the existing laws, and further attempts at illicit trade in smuggling goods, in violation of our revenue laws.
You are hereby directed to detain and search every vessel, under whatever flag, which may enter the river St. Mary's, or be found hovering upon the coast under suspicious circumstances, and seize every vessel freighted with slaves, or whose doubtful character and situation shall indicate an intention of smuggling.
In the execution of these orders, you will take special care not to interrupt or detain any vessels sailing with regular papers, and of a national character, upon lawful voyages to or from a port or ports of the United States.
The traffic in slaves is intended to be restrained, and in the performance of this duty you will exercise your sound judgment in regard to all vessels you may visit.
Communicate frequently to this Department every event connected with this service; and if it shall be found necessary, a further naval force will be sent, either to strengthen your command, or to relieve you so as to pursue your original destination. If you find it necessary, upon your arrival at St. Mary's, to employ a good pilot well acquainted with the coast, rivers, and inlets, you are authorized to do so.
I am, very respectfully, &c.
B. W. CROWNINSHIELD.
Captain John H. Elton,
Commanding United States brig Saranac, New York.
Navy Department, November 14, 1817.
Having been appointed to the command of the United States ship John Adams, you are hereby ordered, in conformity to the wishes of the President of the United States, to proceed forthwith to the port of St. Mary's, in Georgia, taking with you the United States brigs Enterprise and Prometheus, and the schooner Lynx, if the two latter have arrived in New York, and are in a state of readiness to accompany you; but you will not procrastinate the departure of the ship John Adams on account of these vessels, as any of them not fully prepared to proceed with you shall be ordered to join you as soon as practicable at St. Mary's, at which place you will find the United States brig Saranac, Captain John H. Elton, and gun-boat No. 168, Lieutenant Commandant R. McCall; both of which vessels will act under your orders.
The object of the President of the United States in ordering this naval force to St. Mary's is to remove from Amelia island the persons who have lately taken possession thereof, and, as it is understood and believed, without authority from the colonies, or any organized Government whatever, and to the great annoyance of the United States. It has therefore been determined that these persons shall be removed from that island, and that possession shall be taken, for the present, by the land and naval forces of the United States.
On your arrival at St. Mary's, you will consult with the officer commanding the military force, who is instructed to co-operate with you in the performance of this service.
It is hoped that these persons will withdraw without bloodshed; and you will, for this purpose, should your relative rank be superior to that of the commanding officer of the land forces, make known to the chief commanding in Amelia the determination of the Government of the United States to take possession of the island; and if the said chief, and the armed forces under his command, will peaceably quit the island, you will permit them so to do, taking special care that no depredations be committed on the inhabitants, whom it will be your duty to protect from violation or injury, either in their persons or property.
Should the force, however, now in command of the island, contrary to all expectations, resist and refuse absolutely to give up and abandon the same, you are, in co-operation with the military force of the United States, to proceed and take possession of the island in the name and by the authority of the United States.
Should you fall in with, on your way to St. Mary's, or find in Amelia, any vessels from the United States, armed and equipped by American citizens, acting as privateers, contrary to the laws of the United States, you will capture such, and send them to Savannah, in Georgia, to be dealt with according to law.
You will detain all prizes, or other vessels having slaves on board, as the presumption is strong that they are intended to be smuggled into the United States. You will report, from time to time, to this Department the operations of the force under your command.
I am, very respectfully, &c. Commodore J. D. Henley. B. W. CROWNINSHIELD.
P. S. These orders are not to be delivered to any person.
United States ship John Adams, off Amelia, December 24, 1817.
I have the honor to transmit a copy of the correspondence with General Aury, late commander of this place, and to inform you that the American flag was yesterday hoisted at Fernandina, and the island of Amelia taken possession of by the land forces under Major Bankhead, of the United States artillery.
The black troops of General Aury have been embarked on board one of their ships lying in the port, and the remainder of his followers will be sent off the island as soon as the necessary arrangement can be made for the purpose. They are now engaged in watering their ships, and in the course of a week I hope to see all of them over the bar.
Most of the respectable inhabitants of this place retired on its capture by McGregor, and those now here are principally adventurers, who have been attracted by motives of speculation, and, as I suspect, and have every reason to believe, been engaged in the violation of our revenue laws; to prevent which in future, such precautions will be taken as are within my power, and which will, I presume, be adequate to the purpose.
I have not yet been able to examine the ship, and therefore can give you but little further information than was contained in my last communication. The leaks (the principal of which is about two feet under water) still continue, so that we make twenty inches of water per hour—and this lying in port. We are obliged to examine the magazine twice a day, to clear it of the water. I shall land all the powder immediately, to prevent any further damage. The bread, except a very small quantity, is entirely ruined, and unfit for use. I shall order a survey to ascertain the exact quantity of stores damaged, and inform you as early as circumstances will admit.
I shall also inform you by the next mail (which leaves St. Mary's on Saturday next) more particularly of the state of the ship than has heretofore been in my power; the object of the expedition not having been effected rendering it impracticable to examine her thoroughly. I am, however, entirely convinced, in my own mind, that the battery now on the ship is too heavy for her; so much so, that I should deem her unsafe for a long cruise.
This will be sent by an express to Darien, the mail leaving this place but once a week.
I have the honor to be, &c.
J. D. HENLEY.
The Hon. B. W. Crowninshield, Secretary of the Navy.
United States ship John Adams, off Amelia, December 30, 1817.
Since my arrival here, I have been so much engaged that I have not had one moment to write to my friends. You, no doubt, however, have some idea of my situation, and, from my official report's, know that the American flag is now flying on Amelia island. As there are many novel cases which must present themselves, I should have been better pleased had my instructions been full; but we are now left to act as circumstances may require, and I am fearful that Aury and his followers will give us much trouble before they quit the island. I am sorry to add that the Americans appear to be much worse than any others. Should we be able to get through this business, so as to meet the approbation of the Department, I shall feel much gratified; but I trust, should I err in any steps that I may take, that it will be considered by the President as an error of judgment; for I do assure you that nothing would be so pleasing to me as to have my conduct here approved by the Executive. I have endeavored to keep as close to the letter of my instructions as possible, and have avoided every difficulty that I possibly could. I regret very much the difficulty of communicating with the Government. We have only one mail per week, and that does not remain in St. Mary's long enough to enable us to answer letters that we may receive by it.
The situation of my ships you are no doubt acquainted with, as I have written several times to the Secretary on that subject. I, however, do not wish to leave this place until every thing is settled, and the Government have established some kind of police for the better government of this place, which, I am in hopes, will take place ere long. I am fearful that Aury expects that the American Government will relinquish Amelia, which impression will retard his departure.
I have the honor to be, sir, &c.
J. D. HENLEY.
Hon. B. W. Crowninshield, Secretary of the Navy, Washington.
Extract from the capitulation of the island of Amelia, dated at Fernandina, June 29, 1817, and signed by Francisco Morales and Joseph de Yribarren, attested by Bernardo Segin, and approved by Gregor McGregor.
"Brigadier General McGregor, commander-in-chief of all the forces, both naval and military, destined to effect the independence of the Floridas, duly authorized by the constituted authorities of the republics of Mexico, Buenos Ayres, New Granada, and Venezuela, offers to Don Francisco Morales, capitan del regimiento de Cuba, and commandant civil and military of the island of Amelia, the following terms," &c.
Extract from a proclamation of Gregor McGregor, dated head-quarters, Amelia island, June 30, 1817, and signed Gregor McGregor, attested by Joseph Yribarren, secretary.
"Gregor McGregor, brigadier general of the armies of the United Provinces of New Granada and Venezuela, and general-in-chief of the armies for the two Floridas, commissioned by the supreme directors of Mexico, South America," &c.
Extract from an address of Gregor McGregor, dated at head-quarters, San Fernandina, July 1, 1817, and signed Gregor McGregor, and attested by Jos. Yribarren.
"Gregor McGregor, general of brigade to the armies of the United Provinces of New Granada and Venezuela, and general-in-chief of that destined to both the Floridas, with commission from the supreme Governments of Mexico and South America," &c.
"In the name of the independent Governments of South America, which I have the honor to represent, I thank you for this first proof of your ardor and devotion to her cause; and I trust that, impelled by the same noble principles, you will soon be able to free the whole of the Floridas from tyranny and oppression."