--77--

16TH Congress.] 

No. 343. 

[2d Session.

FOREIGN VESSELS ENGAGED IN SMUGGLING THROUGH FLORIDA.

COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JANUARY 13, 1821.

Treasury Department, January 11, 1821.

Sir:

In obedience to a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 20th ultimo, instructing tlie Secretary of the Treasury "to state to the House, so far as he has information, the number and tonnage of the French ships which have arrived and are expected to arrive in the course of the present year in the river St. Mary's since the 1st of July last; whether their cargoes are intended for the consumption of the United States and to be introduced within the territories of the same in evasion of the laws; and what further provision he deems necessary to be made by law for the more effectual collection of the revenue on the southern frontier," I have the honor to state that two vessels under the French flag have arrived in the river St. Mary's since the 1st day of July, 1820, and that several others were daily expected at the date of the last communications from that port. The tonnage of those vessels has not been ascertained. Their cargoes consist principally of wine and fruit; and no doubt is entertained that they were intended for the consumption of the United States, and to be introduced into their Territories in evasion of the revenue laws.

Information has been recently received, entitled to the highest credit, that it is contemplated by mercantile adventurers of other nations to establish depositories of West India articles and of slaves, especially of those who for the commission of crimes may be sentenced in those islands to transportation, on the rivers St. John's and Apalachicola and other positions upon the coast of East and West Florida, for the purpose of illicitly introducing them into the United States, and of drawing from thence all articles necessary to the support and convenience of the West India colonists.

The uncertainty of the final result of the negotiations which have been carried on for the acquisition of the Floridas is understood to be the sole cause why those establishments have not already been made. Should the convention for the cession of those provinces to the United States be ratified by the King of Spain the intended scene of operation will be changed, without changing or in any degree weakening the motives which originally suggested the idea of such establishments.

The supply of the West India islands from the United States with articles of indispensable necessity without the intervention of American navigation will continue to be the object of unceasing exertion. In the event of the occupation of the Floridas by the United States, the depositories necessary to effect that object will probably be transferred to the uninhabited shores of the Gulf of Mexico west of the boundary of the United States. In that position the object of an establishment of that nature will be more manifest, whilst the facilities it will afford of evading the laws will be less than those now contemplated. It is for the wisdom of Congress to determine how far a permission on the part of a foreign government to make such establishments within its territories for the manifest purpose of evading the laws of the Union and of corrupting its inhabitants, will justify the adoption of measures necessary to repress the evil, but which at the same time may be considered an invasion of the rights of jurisdiction and territory of such nation. It is probable that the establishment of a depot of foreign articles on the uninhabited shores of the Gulf of Mexico, within the territories of Spain, would become the habitual resort of smugglers and pirates, from whence a contraband trade of the worst description would be attempted to be carried on with the United States. The establishment of two or more military posts on the Sabine and on the Red River, and the active and vigilant exertions of the revenue cutters employed in the Gulf of Mexico might, in a great degree, repress the efforts which would be made to introduce from such depot every species of merchandise into the United States, in evasion of the revenue laws. Should such an establishment be attempted, and no extraordinary measure of repression be authorized, it will be indispensably necessary to establish a new collection district, comprehending the rivers, bays, and shores of the western part of Louisiana, and secure by a liberal salary the services of a man of integrity and enterprise to superintend and enforce the execution of the revenue laws within the district.

I remain, with respect, your most obedient servant,

WM. H. CRAWFORD.

Hon. John W. Taylor, Speaker of the House of Representatives.