No. 391. [2d Session.
MESSAGE AND DOCUMENTS RELATIVE TO PIRACIES NEAR THE SPANISH WEST INDIA ISLANDS.
COMMUNICATED TO THE SENATE, JANUARY 13, 1825.
To the Senate of the United States:
In compliance with two resolutions of the Senate—the first of the 21st, and the second of the 23d December last—requesting information respecting the injuries which have been sustained by our citizens by piratical depredations, and other details connected therewith; and requesting, also, information of the measures which have been adopted for the suppression of piracy; and whether, in the opinion of the Executive, it will not be necessary to adopt other means for the accomplishment of the object; and, in that event, what other means it will be most advisable to recur to, I herewith transmit a report from the Secretary of State, and likewise a report from the Secretary of the Navy, with the documents referred to in each.
On the very important question submitted to the Executive, as to the necessity of recurring to other more effectual means for the suppression of a practice so destructive of the lives and property of our citizens, I have to observe that three expedients occur: one, by the pursuit of the offenders to the settled as well as the unsettled parts of the island from whence they issue; another, by reprisal on the property of the inhabitants; and a third, by the blockade of the ports of those islands. It will be obvious that neither of these measures can be resorted to, in a spirit of amity with Spain, otherwise than in a firm belief that neither the Government of Spain nor the Government of either of the islands has the power to suppress that atrocious practice, and that the United States interpose their aid for the accomplishment of an object which is of equal importance to them as well as to us. Acting on this principle, the facts which justify the proceeding being universally known and felt by all engaged in commerce in that sea, it may fairly be presumed that neither will the Government of Spain nor the Government of either of those islands complain of a resort to either of those measures, or to all of them, should such resort be necessary. It is therefore suggested that a power commensurate with either resource be granted to the Executive, to be exercised according to his discretion, and as circumstances may imperiously require. It is hoped that the manifestation of a policy so decisive will produce the happiest result; that it will rid these seas and this hemisphere of this practice. This hope is strengthened by the belief that the Government of Spain and the Governments of the islands, particularly of Cuba, whose chief is known here, will faithfully co-operate in such measures as may be necessary for the accomplishment of this very important object. To secure such co-operation will be the earnest desire and, of course, the zealous and persevering effort of the Executive.
Washington, January 13, 1825.
Department of State, Washington, January 11, 1825.
The Secretary of State, to whom have been referred the resolutions of the Senate of the 21st and 23d of December last, requesting that the President would cause to be communicated to that body correspondence and information relative to the piracies referred to in his message; the means adopted by the Executive for their suppression; and the additional means necessary and expedient to be entrusted to the Executive for the suppression of the same; and also the number of merchant vessels belonging to the citizens of the United States, with their names, owners, and value of merchandise, which have been captured or plundered, and of injuries inflicted on citizens of the United States by the pirates since the first of December, eighteen hundred and twenty-three; and the number of pirates and piratical vessels, with the names of the said vessels, that have been taken by our naval force since that period of time, has the honor of reporting to the President copies of documents received at this Department in relation to the subject of those resolutions, which, together with those already communicated to Congress, contain the information required by the resolutions, so far as it is within the competency of this Department to furnish it.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
List of papers transmitted to the Senate with the report of the Secretary of State of January 11, 1825.
1. Extract of a letter of instructions from the Secretary of State to Mr. Thomas Randall, agent for commerce and seamen at Porto Rico and Cuba, dated April 21, 1823.
2. Mr. Randall to the Secretary of State, July 1, 1824. (Extract.)
3. Same to same, July 5, 1824. (Copy.)
4. Same to same, July 14, 1824. (Extract.)
5. Same to same, September 6, 1824. (Extract.)
6. Same to same, September 15, 1824. (Extract.)
7. Same to same, October 31, 1824. (Extract.)
8. Mr. Mountain, vice consul, to Mr. Warner, consul, July 5, 1824. (Copy.)
9. Same to same, October 30, 1824. (Extract.)
10. Same to same, October 30, 1824. (Copy.)
11. Same to same, November 25, 1824. (Extract.)
12. Hugh Nelson, esq., to the Secretary of State, with a note to Mr. Salazar, Minister of State, &c., of September 7, 1824.
Extract of a Letter of Instructions from the Secretary of State to Mr. Thomas Randall, appointed Agent of Commerce and Seamen at Porto Rico and Cuba, dated April 21, 1823.
"You will also obtain and communicate to this Department any information which it may be useful to possess relating to the pirates and piracies which have so long infested the coasts of Cuba. And if it may prove useful to the public service, you will, with due discretion, correspond with any of the naval officers of the United States stationed in those seas for the suppression of the slave trade and of piracies."
Extract of a letter from Mr. Randall to Mr. Adams, dated
Havana, July 1, 1824.
"Mr. Mountain, vice consul of the United States at this port, has just been informed by a respectable merchant of this place that there are some piratical boats or vessels lying off Matanzas, by which the sailing of a number of merchant vessels, now ready for sea, is prevented. The information is brought by a letter from Matanzas, which also contains a request from one of the persons interested that Mr. Mountain would advise some American man-of-war of the fact, that relief might be afforded them. Unfortunately, there is no vessel-of-war of the United States now here, but the intelligence will not be neglected."
Mr. Randall to the Secretary of State.
Havana, July 5, 1824.
Sir: The last letter which I had the honor to address to you was dated the 1st instant, and despatched, via Charleston, by the brig Trader , which sailed the ensuing day. In that letter I advised you that information had been received at this place of the re-appearance of the pirates off the port of Matanzas, by which the sailing of a number of merchant vessels had been prevented. Recent captures made by those pirates off that port confirm the truth of the above report.
Two American vessels are certainly known to have been captured and plundered, and there are reports of the capture of three others. Of the former, the brig Castor, of Portland, Capt. Hood, has arrived at this port. This vessel was captured entering the bay of Matanzas by seven men in an open boat, was taken thence to port "Escondido," in the neighborhood, where the pirates were joined by a large party from the shore with boats and horses, with the assistance of which the brig was plundered of everything portable or valuable, including all the clothes of the captain and his crew. The cargo being principally lumber, the amount taken from the brig was by no means considerable. The captain and his men were, as usual, most severely and cruelly beaten. This boat had previously captured, on the same morning, the brig Betsy, Done , of Newport; and after plundering the vessel and casting off her boats they set her on fire in several places and abandoned her. The crew succeeded in extinguishing the fire, and thus preserved themselves from the horrid death designed for them by their merciless captors.
It is reported here that a brig called the John , from an eastern port of the United States; a ship, the name and description of which are not stated; and a schooner from New York, with a valuable cargo of dry goods, have also been captured within a few days by the pirates. I have not yet been able to arrive at any direct and certain authority for this last report, which is, however, generally credited here. I thought it my duty to give you the earliest intelligence of those depredations, however imperfect in its details.
The temporary absence of the United States cruisers from their usual station has emboldened those men to renew their piracies. The necessity which has caused this very short and casual absence of the whole American squadron from the neighborhood of Matanzas and this port is much to be regretted. Very great alarm prevails in this place among the masters of vessels, several of whom are fearful of putting to sea without convoy. A British cutter, the Grecian , has just arrived at this port. Mr. Mountain, our vice consul, solicited her commander to make a short cruise to Matanzas in pursuit of those pirates. He promised to sail this evening with that object.
This letter will be sent by the steamship Robert Fulton , which will sail for New York early to-morrow morning. I regret that the short stay of this vessel prevents me from enlarging my letter on this very interesting topic, as I had designed. I have been endeavoring to collect all the facts I could arrive at in relation to the piracies committed from this island, and shall take occasion to write more fully upon the subject by the earliest safe conveyance.
I have the honor to be, with the greatest consideration and respect, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. John Quincy Adams.
Extract of a letter from Mr. Randall to Mr. Adams, dated
Havana, July 14, 1824.
"I had the honor to write to you last by the steamship Robert Fulton , via New York, of the date of the 5th instant. In this letter I gave information of the capture of the brig Castor, of Portland, and of the Betsy, Done, of Newport, by the pirates, off Matanzas, and of the reported capture of several other American vessels. Since that date we have certain intelligence of the capture of the schooner Mercator by a piratical vessel off Port Escondido. It is derived from a passenger (a Spaniard) who, as far as we yet know; is the only person who has been permitted to escape from the hands of the captors. He calls himself Don Joseph Manuel Rey, and on the 9th instant made a deposition before the vice consul of the United States at this port, of which the following extract is the substance:
"'That he was a passenger on board the schooner Mercator, Henry Allen master, from New York, bound to this port, Havana; that on the 3d day of this present month the said vessel was boarded, when near the port of Escondido, on this coast, by a sharp built foretopsail schooner, with about forty armed men, who took possession of said Mercator , confined this deponent in the cabin, (after first suspending him by the thumbs and then by the neck, to extort information where the money was to be found on board,) for three days, when they sent this deponent on shore, alone, near Camrioca, to the windward of Matanzas; for the three days this deponent was confined he had no communication with any one, and knows not what was done with Captain Allen and his crew.'
"It is greatly to be feared that these unfortunate men have all been destroyed by the pirates, a fate from which the above named passenger was only saved by being a Spaniard.
"From further information derived from this passenger, I apprehend there was on board the Mercator both public and private letters for me, sent from the Department of State, through the Collector's office of New York. I mention this that, should the fact be so, and the communications of importance, duplicates may be despatched to me.
"The United States brig Grampus, Commandant Sloat, arrived off this port on the 1th, and sent in her boat with an officer. The Grampus is from the coast of Mexico, and is bound to New York. The consul wrote to Captain Sloat, informing him of the appearance of the pirates off Matanzas, and advising him to proceed to that place. I urged the same in a message by the lieutenant who was sent on shore. The Grampus sailed the same night, and I take it for granted has proceeded to the scene of those depredations.
"It will thus be seen to what a fearful head so short an interval of the absence of our vessels-of-war has enabled this horrible system of piracy again to swell, demonstrating conclusively that, though rendered inert for a time by the pressure of external force, it has continued to exist in full vitality, and ready to be exerted the moment that pressure was removed. Such, it is feared, will ever be the case until measures of greater severity on the part of the United States shall be resorted to. I hope the importance of the subject will serve as an excuse for me if I attempt, somewhat at large, to explain the nature and extent of this evil, and respectfully to suggest the only remedy which appears to me to be effectual and adequate to its entire suppression.
"It may be now assumed as an undoubted fact that the crime of piracy is not limited to the mariners who are the active agents in its perpetration, but has advocates and partisans in a very numerous class of the inhabitants of this island. Of the latter class, many have a direct concern in the equipment and arming of those vessels and a participation in their plunder. Others amongst the planters on the coast and the merchants are indirectly concerned in the great profit derived from purchasing the property plundered by them. Besides those persons thus concerned, the Spaniards of this island, generally, observe with perfect apathy, and some even with pleasure, those depredations against the commerce of the United States, for it is not a little extraordinary that one may hear in the streets of Matanzas, and even of this city, this most odious crime warmly defended, on principle, by men of property, and deemed respectable here. They urge in its defence that it is but a retaliation for the conduct of citizens of the United States in capturing, under the insurgent flag, the property of Spaniards. They say that the conduct of the people of Regla and Matanzas, and other places from which the pirates issue, is no worse than that pursued in certain places in the United States which they name. Many of the Spanish merchants have sustained immense losses from captures made by Colombian and other vessels-of-war, and privateers, commanded and partly manned by citizens of the United States; and they assert that the conduct of our Government and its citizens, in this particular, is no less reprehensible than that which is charged against the Spaniards in respect to piracy. I shall not stop to show the utter absence of truth in the charge made against the Government of the United States; and although I entirely disapprove of the conduct of those Americans who, for the sake of plunder, have engaged in the war between Spain and her colonies, I do not think it necessary to point out the great difference of turpitude in the respective
practices. I merely mention the opinions of those Spaniards to give semblance and probability to the sentiments they utter, which would, otherwise, from their extreme perversity and immorality, be scarcely credited. The moment a prize to the pirates arrives on the coast, persons from the interior throng to the spot to share in or purchase the plunder, as in the late case of the brig Castor. The property soon finds its way into the cities and tempts cupidity by the advantages of the traffic. But four days past, the anchor and cable of the brig Castor , plundered about the beginning of this month, was found on board an American vessel in this port, the captain of which purchased it from the Patron of a droger or coaster of this island. Two years ago it was common for persons to cross the harbor to Regla publicly to buy property from the pirates. Allegations of this kind have been repeatedly made in the United States, and generally credited, and it is believed that the records of your Department contain sufficient proof of their truth. Here they are matters of notoriety, and generally credited.
"A publication appeared in the Charleston Courier, in or about September, 1823, in relation to this subject, containing a detail of the transactions at Regla. A suit was brought in the court of Carolina, by a Spaniard of Regla, against the editor of the Courier, for a libel, in charging him with being concerned with the pirates. A commission has been sent to this place to examine witnesses in behalf of the defendant in justification of the publication, and the commission is now open. The subject is much talked of, and I have been told by some of the commissioners, and by many of the most respectable merchants of this place, that every allegation in the piece charged as libellous is unquestionably true, and susceptible of full proof if witnesses dare to declare the whole truth. But such is the fear of the prosecutor and his associates, that it will be difficult to find a witness hardy enough to expose himself to the vengeance of those men, by disclosing, at this place, what he knows of their practices. The publication is said here to be a true but faint and imperfect sketch of the horrible transactions of the period to which it alludes. For that reason I mention it that it may be referred to for further information. I beg leave, for further confirmation of the opinions above advanced, to mention one other fact, which I have received from a gentleman of unquestionable veracity.
"A representation was made to the Captain General, about the period of the greatest activity amongst the pirates, that a large sum of money in doubloons, which had been plundered from a Boston vessel, had been traced to Regla, and could there be found and identified. Information had been given by one of the pirates concerned in the capture. After instituting an examination, the Captain General sent for the claimant, and informed him, 'that he feared all Regla would be found to be implicated in the robbery; and that, in the present disturbed and critical condition of the island, he dared not push the investigation further;' and so the affair rested.
"While, then, those practices, so far from finding a corrective or check in the moral feeling of this community, are rather countenanced and aided by it, it is obvious that a Government of even greater energy and virtue than that of this island would be scarcely adequate to their suppression. But with the exception of the present chief of this Government, and a very few of its highest officers, it is more than suspected that the great majority of these public agents are either indifferent, or feel an interest adverse to its suppression. Participating in the general prejudices of their countrymen, they have also a pecuniary interest in occasionally conniving at those robberies, and in protecting their perpetrators from the hands of justice. I should not have credited those charges but upon the most undoubted testimony. Various facts have been mentioned to me by resident merchants, of the highest respectability, of this place, as being known to them personally, where the officers of the customs and others have got possession of property known to have been captured by pirates, and have applied the whole or the greater part to their own use, preventing the legal owners from all chance of identifying and recovering their property; where they have, for large rewards, suffered persons known to be pirates to escape from justice. The case of the cargo of the Jamaica coffee, brought to this place, which is referred to in the Charleston Courier, above mentioned, was told to me as an undoubted fact before I had read it in that paper. Even where a few of the pirates have had the singular ill fortune to be arrested and confined in prison, they either manage to escape by bribery, or they are confined without trial until their names and offences have been forgotten, and their crimes no longer susceptible of proof.
"In aid of those moral causes, there exist others of a local and physical character, furnishing those marauders the means both of annoyance and protection. The numerous ports of this island, only partially visited by and known to strangers, afford them every facility to secrete their plunder and evade the most rigorous pursuit.
"Whatever disposition, then, the present Governor may evince to suppress this crime, (and from information I have received he has used every exertion,) his efforts, unaided by the executive officers, by the tribunals, and by public opinion, will be powerless and ineffectual; nor can more satisfactory results be anticipated from the application of the most active system of mere external preventive measures, such as have been heretofore resorted to by the United States. If experience had not conclusively settled the question, the facts and reasons above stated would seem sufficient to demonstrate, a priori, the inefficacy of those measures of prevention.
"Notwithstanding the large armament maintained by the United States on this coast, attended with a profuse waste of treasure, and with the sacrifice of the healths and lives of so many of their gallant crews, the only result has been the temporary and partial interruption of the practice, while the source and cause of the mischief have not been reached.
"This naturally brings me to an inquiry as to the means adequate to its suppression; and the obvious result, from what has been stated, is, that the remedy, to be effectual, must be applied directly to the origin and seat of the evil. Public opinion in this island must be changed; and as this cannot be effected by reason, or the voice of justice, it must be corrected by force. The authorities must be stimulated by counter-motives of interest or fear to the exercise of greater vigilance, and to measures of more rigor and severity against delinquents. Those salutary changes, in my opinion, can only be produced by a rigid system of reprisals and hostilities, on the part of the United States, against Spanish property, and particularly that belonging to this island. This plan is by no means new, but has been often suggested, and (I am informed) by the Committee of "Foreign Relations," at the last session of Congress. I have not read the report, but am told the committee forbear to recommend its immediate adoption, but advise the awaiting the result of an application to the supreme Government of Spain. If the views above presented, of the causes and extent of the evil, be correct, it is to be feared that, as at present circumstanced, Spain can do but little to remedy it. It is not believed that she is able or willing to spare an adequate force to effect the object. New orders may be issued to the authorities here, enjoining greater
vigilance and energy, but it cannot be conceived that any greater sanction or obligation can be thereby superadded to those which ought already to exist. Those, however, have been insufficient so far.
"I am not unaware that the Executive, without the sanction of Congress, is incompetent to apply the above remedy. The remarks are made to impress the principle I wish to inculcate, and which I hope will be concurred in, that this remedy must in all probability be eventually resorted to, and thus to induce corresponding preparations.
"The reprisals should not be confined to the capturing of the foreign commerce of the island and its coasting trade, but should also extend to the levying of contributions on all places and towns on the coast (wherever assailable) at which piratical vessels are fitted out or received. The advantages of this would be, that every part of the community would partake of the distress caused by those retaliatory measures. Those participating, directly or indirectly, would be detected and exposed by their exasperated countrymen and be made to disgorge their plunder. Those merely indifferent or favorable to the crimes of those pirates would, through interest and fear, be incited to discountenance them. The planters would suffer by the capture of their produce in the coasting vessels; the merchants and others by the contributions levied on their property, and by the capture and interruption of their commerce. The authorities would be incited to redoubled vigilance and vigor, and, receiving the co-operation of the inhabitants, would in a short time render the pursuit of this practice hazardous and fruitless. For when it shall have been seen that for every capture made by pirates from this island strict and full retribution will be exacted from the inhabitants, there can be no doubt that the great mass of the community will combine to rid themselves of the cause of this infliction. That thus combined their efforts would be adequate to its extinction, no reasonable doubt can be entertained. If a rigorous blockade of the ports of this island was at the same time established, the distress produced, as well to individuals as to the Government, in cutting off its only source of supply and ordinary revenue, would soon bring all parties to a proper sense of their true interest and duty.
"It would be unnecessary and presumptuous in me to offer, seriously, to prove that such a course on the part of the United States would be fully justified by every principle of reason and of international law applicable to the subject. The facts of the case prove that a large part of the people of this island are engaged in hostilities of the most cruel and oppressive character against the property and lives of citizens of the United States, without the inclination or ability on the part of the supreme Government of Spain or the local authorities to put a stop to it. Nothing short of this remedy can afford a corrective, which is, therefore, justified on the great principles of humanity and self-defence.
"As to the amount of force adequate to effect those objects, it is believed that a ship of the line, a frigate, or two sloops-of-war, with some smaller vessels, armed with the requisite powers to make reprisals, would, in the course of a few months, give an entire check to it. Upon this subject, however, the President can doubtless be better informed by the naval officers of the United States.
"It is with feelings of more than mere diffidence that I have ventured, from a sense of duty, to submit with freedom these ideas to the Government. I claim for them no originality, for they are common to all the intelligent men with whom I have conversed who are acquainted with the transactions of this island for the last few years; and I shall be better satisfied if they are found to coincide with the opinions already formed by the Executive of the United States on this interesting subject.
"I have just been informed by Captain Paine, of the United States schooner Weasel, (arrived yesterday,) that he visited Port Escondido and its vicinity since the period of the captures made off that place, but could find no pirates. From the evidences of their practices existing there he will be induced to repeat his visit. This shows with what facility the pirates are enabled to dispose of their prizes and evade pursuit. The United States ship John Adams, Captain Dallas, arrived in this port the 12th instant from the Bay of Mexico, and will leave it for Philadelphia this day or to-morrow. I hasten to close this letter to be despatched by that ship."
Extracts of a letter from Mr. Randall to the Secretary of State, dated
Havana, September 6, 1824.
"The Government will have learned from my letter of the 14th July, by the John Adams, and from other accounts, of the renewal of the piracies at this island in their most atrocious and sanguinary form. In that letter I mentioned the cases of the Mercator, the Castor, and others. While at Matanzas I was informed that several other captures had occurred near that city, but, from the destruction of the vessels and crews, no particulars were known. At the same time the brig Industry, of Baltimore, when in the harbor of Matanzas, and only a few miles from the city, was attacked by five piratical boats, which were beaten off. The firing was distinctly heard in Matanzas. A Spanish brig-of-war lay in the port, but no efforts were made to capture the boats."
"While at Matanzas and in its neighborhood I heard much of the nature and extent of the piracies committed there, and of the extensive participation in it by persons of the city and country. The facts are truly appalling, and far exceed in degree and turpitude the views of it presented in my letter of the 14th July. Large quantities of their plunder are known to have been introduced by the pirates into Matanzas, and are vending there at prices which alone betray the nature of the property. Many articles of a peculiar fabric, and known not to have been regularly introduced, are seen there constantly, such as French hats, of the newest fashion, on the heads of vulgar ruffians. The retailers of goods are seen travelling to the coast with pack-horses, for the known purpose of making purchases from the pirates. A respectable Englishman, who keeps the ferry near the city, informed me that the returns from his ferry give certain indications when prizes are on the coast, from the number of persons who resort from Matanzas to their rendezvous. No effectual measures are taken to stop this traffic. If, occasionally, goods are seized in the attempt to smuggle them into the city, the affair terminates by their condemnation, or being taken by the officers of the customs, and nothing more is heard of it. Persons known to be pirates walk the streets unmolested, no one being willing to incur the risk of denouncing them.
"But very recently a scene of piracy has been exposed in another quarter, which must have been acting for several months, and which, for the extent of its depredations and their atrocity, transcends all that have been known for several years. They have taken place at Baya Honda, to the leeward of this place, near Cape San Antonio, the old scene of similar crimes. Information having been given to Captain Graham, of the British sloop-of-war Icarus, an expedition was fitted out in his boats, which proceeded to Baya Honda on the 21st ultimo, and succeeded in capturing two pirate vessels and in killing several of the pirates. On the approach of the boats the pirates, about forty in number, fled into the bushes. On board one of the pirate vessels were confined the captain and crew of the brig Henry, of Hartford, Connecticut, who were most seasonably released. The Henry was captured on the 16th ultimo, bound from a port in Mexico to Matanzas, with a cargo of mules. The captain and his crew were treated with the accustomed cruelty of those ruffians, and were designed to be killed the next day, after they had assisted in landing the mules. The Henry was dismasted and stripped.
"In the bay were found the wrecks of twelve vessels recently destroyed by the pirates, the crews of all of which are supposed to have been murdered. Some of the vessels were very large, and the British officers computed that their crews could not have consisted of a less number than one hundred and twenty persons. Of this horde of villains nothing had been previously heard, and they had been no doubt carrying on their depredations for a considerable time without interruption. Some of the crew of the Henry were told by the pirates that all those vessels, twelve in number, had been captured and destroyed by them; and upon being asked what had been done with their crews, they very significantly shrugged their shoulders, but gave no answer. This part of the coast has been but little observed of late by men-of-war, from an idea that the pirates had entirely deserted it, and it is still believed to be very imperfectly explored and known. The place is represented as having many secret harbors, difficult of detection without a very strict scrutiny with boats. The pirates run their prizes into those small harbors or inlets, cut away their masts, and to vessels merely cruising in the bay they are then invisible. It is further stated by the crew of the Henry that the pirates had sold to persons on shore the mules on board that vessel, which they were about landing when surprised by the boats of the Icarus. It is impossible that such extensive operations could have been carried on without the full knowledge and participation of the adjacent country.
"Captain Graham made a representation to the authorities of the island, but, I am told, complains much of the apathy evinced by them on the occasion. He has, however, been promised that measures should be taken to discover and punish the delinquents, to which purpose orders would be sent to the captain of the 'partido' or district where the affair occurred. To Captain Graham, his officers, and men, the greatest praise is due for their promptness in equipping the force, the gallantry and spirit with which it was conducted, and not less for their humanity to our unfortunate seamen, whom they relieved in the very crisis of their fate. This officer was before advantageously known for his good conduct and success against the pirates, in killing the noted chief, Pépé, and destroying his establishment at the Isle of Pines. Captain Graham states that the Governor of the Isle of Pines had, a short time before, presented to this notorious pirate an elegant pair of pistols. On the destruction of his party by the English, this same Governor claimed great merit for the aid he afforded. I have also been told, and have reason to believe, that the Spanish brig-of-war 'El Marte,' Don José Apodaca commander, a few days since fell in with and boarded a pirate vessel, the consort of those destroyed by the boats of the Icarus. The visit terminated, however, in mutual civilities. The officers of the man-of-war received various presents from the pirate and let him pass, although his character was well known to all on board. The pirate urged that he only cruised against the enemies of Spain. The account is given by a seaman who was on board the 'Marte,' and visited the pirate.
"I report these facts, out of many similar ones which occur, to satisfy the Government that the whole body of the State is infected and tainted with this dreadful crime, and as a justification for any extremity of treatment which the United States may find it necessary to apply. I must add my increased conviction, arising from more varied information, that nothing short of a system of strict reprisals against this island, its trade, and property, will afford an effectual remedy. I took the liberty, in my letter sent by the John Adams, to offer some remarks in recommendation of this measure. In the meantime, to check and restrain it partially, a large and active force must be constantly kept up on this coast. It is also, in my opinion, necessary that the force employed should be always present, with an undivided view and attention to this business. Their occasional absence on other duties materially impairs their efficacy, Their operations against the pirates should be consecutive and unremitting. It has been found that occasional visits to suspected places, by different vessels, and at long intervals, produce no serious impression on the pirates. They serve, it is true, to afford convoy and a momentary protection, but the intervals of their absence are occupied by the pirates in renewed depredations. It is considered by all intelligent persons at Matanzas to be indispensable that a vessel of at least the force of one of our largest schooners should be constantly lying in the entrance of that harbor. The advantage of such a measure has been before evinced. While on this subject, I think it my duty to state that much dissatisfaction and complaint exists amongst the merchants and traders here, citizens of the United States, because of the great diminution of our naval force in this quarter during the past summer. They allege the summer months to be much more fraught with danger to vessels, because of the calms which prevail, and which, while they permit the smallest species of piratical boats to keep the sea, expose the merchant vessels much more to their attacks. In the more boisterous months many of those boats cannot cruise, and the vessels approaching rapidly to the coast, and running at once into port, are much less liable to capture. I have endeavored to silence their complaints (which will probably be heard in the United States) and to convince them that every possible care has been taken to afford them protection. I cannot but lament, however, the causes (sufficient no doubt) which have induced the withdrawing of so large a portion of the force. Recent events here have proved, that if this was induced by the supposition that piracy was effectually put down, or that the force left was adequate to restrain it, the opinion was erroneous and its consequences deplorable."
Extract of a letter from Mr. Randall to the Secretary of State, dated
Havana, September 15, 1824.
"The pirates at Key Sal and to the windward have lately received an increase of numbers, which threatens to give more extension to their ravages. Several slave vessels and others were captured by a Colombian privateer, and their crews, to the number of 140 men, sent into Matanzas. A large number of those desperadoes stole boats and left that place avowedly to join the pirates. The vessels to which they belonged were under convoy of a French brig-of-war, which, however, did not attempt to afford them any protection. This conduct of the French commander has much exasperated the Spaniards, and they are now as much incensed against the French as they were before against the Americans and English. Some of the owners of those vessels openly threaten reprisals, and say they will respect no flag; in other words, that they will turn pirates and make up their losses.
"Some persons have been lately arrested at or near Baya Honda and sent in custody to this city, charged with being concerned in the late piracies committed in that quarter. Some of them belong to Regla, a village in this harbor which has ever been the headquarters of the pirates. The authorities of this island have, at length, made a serious effort against the pirates. An expedition of launches and boats was prepared and actually sailed on the night of the 12th instant on this service. To conceal the design from the pirates, an embargo was, on the 11th, laid upon all vessels and boats in this harbor, which was not raised until the 14th. But, as much time was consumed by their tardy preparations, and no other precautions taken to prevent its being known, it is not to be doubted that the pirates have received, from their fellows here, timely intelligence of the movement. This new-born zeal of the authorities has excited some surprise and speculation in this city. It is supposed to have [been] excited by the affair of the brig Marte, mentioned in my last letter. The commandant of that vessel has himself reported to the Government his having fallen in with the pirates off 'Cayo Comfites,' or Sugar Key, and that he had treated with them under a flag of truce, not feeling strong enough to attack them. This disgraceful affair has thrown such contempt on the flag of Spain and its authorities that Government is now incited to attempt something effectual. The present expedition is, however, the subject of derision in this city, and from its composition promises nothing but failure and disgrace. I anticipate better results from two other expeditions which will be on the same service about the same time. The one in his British Majesty's brig Thracian, which sailed the 13th to the windward, on a cruise against the pirates. The other has been fitting out at Key West for some days past, and has ere this, I hope, fallen in with the party at Sugar Key."
Extracts of a letter from Mr. Randall to the Secretary of State, dated
Havana, October 1, 1824.
"My former letters contain all the cases of piracy which have come to my knowledge since my residence at this place, and I regret I have to add to the black catalogue some recent instances, marked with a degree of cruelty so wanton and atrocious as to be peculiar even in the annals of this most barbarous warfare. Several American vessels were captured about the 20th instant, near Matanzas, by a large launch from Regla, their crews all murdered, with the exception of one seaman, and the vessels burnt. Two of the vessels are known, viz: the Laura Ann and the Morning Star, both of New York, the latter supposed to have been bound to New Orleans, with passengers. From the first named vessel one seaman escaped, by secreting himself under the cargo, when his companions were murdered. The pirates, after setting fire to the vessel, deserted her, when this seaman escaped by swimming to the shore. He reached Matanzas, and has there given a detail of the horrid affair. A piratical boat, belonging to Regla, was, the next day, captured by the boats of the United States schooner Porpoise, and is the same which made the above captures. Her crew, unfortunately, escaped to the shore at -----.
"The boat and the articles which it contained gave bloody evidences of the tragical scenes which had been acted by its crew. Many suits of clothes were found on board, bloody, and pierced with holes, through which their unfortunate wearers had been stabbed. Some of them, partly worn, belonged to females.
"The pirates are known to have remained together, and to have slept the ensuing night in a house on the shore, near -----, without molestation, although the blaze of the vessel which they burnt, and the pursuit of their vessel by the boats of the Porpoise, were all distinctly seen by the people on the shore, in whose view the pirates landed. Those facts I have just heard from a respectable person from Matanzas, and Mr. Mountain has received a letter from Matanzas of the same tenor. This letter has been sent to the Captain General, on his application.
"A full detail of the affair has, no doubt, been sent to the United States by the naval officers and the consular agents on that station. Other vessels are missing, and are supposed to have shared the same fate. From the evidence of the seaman of the Laura Ann, above referred to, it appears that the pirates were not content with simply putting to death the crew of that vessel, which made no resistance and offered nothing to excite their cupidity, but perpetrated it with the most refined and cruel tortures they could invent. It is an important fact, also, in this case, that the fate of the Laura Ann was known at this place, through the means of the pirates themselves, more than twenty-four hours before any regular communications had or could have been received from the scene of action through any other medium. The first account came from Regla, and when inquiries were made by me as to its authority, I was answered, 'that it was undoubtedly true, for it came from Regla, and might, therefore, be relied upon as official.' One other circumstance convinces me that the first account must have been communicated by the pirates themselves to their confederates in Regla. It is this: it was first reported here that every man on board had been put to death. This the pirates certainly must have believed to be the case, from the
care they took to effect it, and that the burning of the vessel had sealed the fate of all on board, and thus they reported it. The escape of the seaman was not known until the arrival of the steamboat from Matanzas brought the first authentic and certain intelligence on the subject.
"It will thus be seen that this horrible crime continues to be perpetrated to an extent, and with a savage ferocity, never before equalled. Of the numerous captures, the particulars of which are known, the indiscriminate murder of all on board appears to be the settled purpose of those remorseless villains. It is painful to reflect upon the numbers who may have fallen victims to the same fate, but whose tragical history may be buried in the ocean with their mangled bodies. It is now obvious that piracy has found so congenial a soil, has grown to so fearful an extent, and is so deeply rooted in this island, as to require the efforts of all commercial nations to eradicate it. Piracy, with the slave trade, (the prolific parent of this and many other crimes,) now reign in full licentiousness, and defy as well the sanction of law as the impotent arm of Government. These crimes have become the settled, inveterate habit and occupation of a large portion of the people of this island. The thirst for illicit gain has displaced all desire for fair and legitimate acquisitions, and familiarity with scenes of blood and carnage has stifled the voice of humanity and remorse. It has now become a cause in which not only individual property and lives, to a fearful aggregate, are jeopardized, but even the honor of nations and the cause of civilization are at stake. It cannot be endured, that this band of remorseless wretches should be suffered longer to cumber the earth. The robberies and cruelties of the Barbary States, which have so often roused all Christendom to arms, were trifling in extent and ferocity, compared with those of the pirates of Cuba. It is in vain for commercial nations to rely for security upon mere preventive measures at sea, or upon the efforts of the authorities and people of this island to extirpate it. The authorities cannot restrain it if they would. Even the present Governor, characterized as he is for firmness and moral courage, feels his honor too precarious, at this crisis, to venture upon the measures of rigor and severity essential to its suppression. The ridiculous issue of the late expedition from this port has only served to display in full relief the weakness of the Government, and to afford another argument of security to the pirates. The unprincipled and wicked have obtained the commplete ascendency, and the honest few dare not denounce or pursue the criminals. In such a state of things the pirates must be pursued by foreign forces into their retreats on land, and this community coerced by a severe and just retribution to aid in ejecting those miscreants from its bosom. The cause of justice and humanity will require that parts of this island be occupied by a foreign force, and that the sword of justice be wrested from the hands of those who have proved themselves unworthy or too weak to wield it. Pardon me, sir, if on this subject I suffer my feelings to lead me into too great a warmth of expression or importunity of zeal. To be here on the spot, to witness these horrid scenes of devastation and murder upon the unarmed citizens of friendly nations; to know that these savage acts are participated in and countenanced by numbers, and viewed with a frigid indifference by the whole community; to find the Government of this island shamefully remiss in measures of prevention and punishment, cannot but excite the most lively indignation at the past, and the most intense anxiety for the future.
"On this subject, I beg leave to refer you to a publication in the National Gazette, of Philadelphia, of the 17th September last, which I have just read, and which presents a most lively and faithful picture of this crime in Cuba. This piece has excited much sensation at this place, and the entire accuracy of its details, and the profound and just views which it exhibits of the causes, nature, and extent of this crime, are borne testimony to by every intelligent man with whom I have conversed upon the subject. I beg leave to refer to this account (the writer of which I know not) as developing fully, and more ably than I could myself do, my views upon this subject.
"I take the liberty to add some remarks on the disposition and conduct of the naval forces of the United States on this station, which were designed to be employed in the suppression of piracy. It is here a matter of common observation and complaint, that the anti-piratical squadron has effected nothing against the pirates, commensurate with its numbers and force, during the last six months. This has not been owing to the want of zeal, of enterprise, or courage on the part of our officers and seamen actually engaged in this pursuit, but to their diversion to other objects incompatible with the efficient performance of this highly important service. Since the spring the vessels have been dispersed on various services remote from this island, which they have merely made a touching point 'in transitu,' without remaining long enough to make any permanent impression on the system. For a considerable time the most exposed part of this coast, at the most dangerous season, was not visited by a single vessel of war, and, for a still longer time, by none but the smallest and most inefficient.
The temporary cessation of piracies some time before, caused by the presence of a large force on the coast, seems to have induced a delusive and fatal opinion that the evil was extinguished, and to have led to the diversion of too large a portion of the force to objects of infinitely less pecuniary, and of scarcely any national importance. I allude to the carrying of specie for our merchants in vessels of war, the whole effect of which is to give a trifling premium of insurance to one class of the community which would otherwise be paid to another class. In denouncing this practice as detrimental to the best interests of the nation, I but repeat the common sentiment of every man who has witnessed its effects during the past summer. If the benefit to commerce by this medium for the transportation of specie be of sufficient importance, it may be effected by vessels especially designated for that purpose. But experience shows that the suppression of piracy and the transportation of specie on the late system are incompatible. The first alone is more than sufficient to occupy all the time and energies of any force we can detach for that service. It must be evident that officers arriving here, their vessels freighted with large sums of money deliverable in the United States or elsewhere, for which they have signed bills of lading, and on which insurance has been effected by all parties for their respective interests, have contracted obligations, always embarrassing and frequently directly adverse to the performance of some important service. Such has been the predicament of many vessels of the United States, designed to protect our trade against the pirates, which have merely touched at this island, in their voyages to and from other islands out of the sphere of piracy, and the ports of the Gulf of Mexico, the usual termini of those cruises. They stop at the larger ports of this island barely time enough to take in water, and other supplies, to land or receive specie, and then, after a long cruise, return to the United States, their usefulness limited to the convoying of a few vessels from the coast. I trust the notoriety of the practice here, its effects upon the character of the Navy and of the nation, and more especially upon the property and lives of our citizens, will be sufficient to justify these suggestions. I am aware that it is a delicate subject, and not lightly or rashly to be touched; but I should illy discharge my duty as an American
citizen, and as an officer of the Government, if, from an ill-timed or fastidious delicacy, I omitted to denounce a practice so pregnant with mischief.
"I am happy to add, that Captain Kennedy and the officers now on this station discountenance this practice, and that both their conduct and proceedings are entirely conformable to the most rigid dictates of duty. The Hornet, the Porpoise, and some of the smaller vessels, are actively engaged in the pursuit of the pirates,"
John Mountain, Esq., acting as Consul, to John Warner, Esq., Consul of the United States, dated
Havana, July 5, 1824.
My Dear Sir: I am sorry to inform you that, in consequence of the absence of our squadron in this quarter, the pirates have again commenced their diabolical depredations on our commerce on this side of the island.
The brig Castor, of Portland, Captain Hood, from thence bound to Matanzas, was on the 1st instant, in the bay of Matanzas, boarded by a boat with seven men armed with muskets, carbines, swords, pistols and knives, who ordered the captain to take the vessel out; when, after beating the master most cruelly and driving the crew below, brought the vessel to anchor in the port of Escondido, where they robbed her of everything portable on board; the captain arrived here on the next day.
The brig John, of Portland, has arrived at Matanzas, after having been robbed of everything, except the lumber on board, by those marauders; the master and crew have been all treated in a very cruel manner. The pirates now boast that they have nothing to fear, as the United States squadron has left the station.
A number of American vessels are loaded and ready for sea at Matanzas, but dare not prosecute their voyage, fearful of being overtaken by those worst of enemies.
Several vessels in this port are ready for sea, but are fearful of the consequences of going out to sea; they prefer waiting a few days, hoping that some one of the squadron may come in to afford them protection. What has become of the squadron, and whether it is employed as directed by the act of Congress, appears to be the general inquiry. Indeed, I am unable to give a distinct answer to these questions. I have only to join in the general lamentations that this coast is entirely neglected, unprotected, and our commerce and citizens left completely at the mercy and entire control of a set of cutthroats, who boast and rejoice at the favorable opportunity of enriching themselves by plundering the Americans.
The Betsy, Done, a brig bound to Matanzas, has also been robbed, near Matanzas, of all that part of her cargo consisting of provisions, clothes, sails, rigging, boat, oars, &c.
Some two or three others are reported to be in the possession of the pirates at this time, but of this I have no certain information. I mention it as rumor, but am fearful it may be true.
I am, my dear sir, your very obedient servant,
Extract of a letter from Mr. Mountain to Mr. Warner.
Havana, October 30, 1824.
"Herewith accompanying I have given you a long extract of a letter from Mr. Lattin, of Matanzas. It is a lamentable fact that, unless some efficient measures are taken by our Government to put a stop to the pirates, our poor countrymen must suffer; it is too true our trade has not been protected on this side of Cuba since early last spring; our men-of-war have, it is certain, occasionally been here, and off here on their way to or from the ports in the bay of Mexico, carrying freight. A thirst for making money prevails with others as well as those in the island of Cuba."
Mr. Mountain, acting Consul of the United States at Havana, to Mr. Warner, the Consul.
Havana, October 30, 1824.
My Dear Sir: Herewith I have the pleasure to hand you the latest weekly report.
Piracies have again commenced on or near the shores of Cuba to an alarming degree. The following is an extract of a letter from Mr. Lattin, with whom you are acquainted, dated
"Matanzas, October 27, 1824.
"I am sorry to say the pirates have committed the most horrid depredations last Thursday and Friday between this and your port. The Laura Ann, of New York, belonging to Griswold, of that place, from Montevideo, with a cargo of jerked beef, was taken, all the crew except one hung, the vessel set on fire, when Jack, who had hid away amongst the beef, crawled out, jumped overboard, and got ashore; he
presented himself here on Monday morning, in a state of nudity, not able to walk. He states that they first hung the captain, then the second mate, laid them on the quarter deck, talked as if they did not intend to injure the sailors, but drove them into the forecastle, and were taken up one by one, and he had proof of their experiencing the same fate, which induced him to hide himself amongst the beef; they searched for him with a light, some saying todos had been hung, and others declaring uno mas. The fact is, they were determined, if not hung, he should be roasted; accordingly, set fire abaft to the vessel; after ascending on deck, he could see the dead bodies lying amongst the flames on the quarter deck; took his station on the bowsprit, and fell to praying; they having thrown beef overboard, the sharks were in abundance, which held poor Jack mighty uneasy; he preferred the risk of the watery enemy to the flames, and let himself down by a rope, when two sharks took him under their protection, swimming along side of him, so as occasionally to be in his way; so soon as he got to the rocks, they tacked ship and left him. Jack has some confidence in prayers; this took place just at dark; the burning of the brig gave light to see his companions on his way ashore, which was about 20 rods; after resting awhile, he looked out for a hole to pass the night; he found one with sundry goods in it, which induced him to clear out, and proceed from the scene of horror; he represents having fell in with several deposits of goods. Last evening the Ferret arrived, and has gone out, taking Jack to survey the premises; I hope they may succeed in getting some of the plunder. Jack says a brig was taken on Friday morning, and a schooner in the afternoon, by the same party; the boat is a schooner of about 25 to 30 hogsheads; was taken on Friday by the boats of the Porpoise off Camarioca, loaded with clothing, &c.; three American colors, six compasses, five quadrants, &c.; the crew all escaped on shore. Mr. Smith, from Camarioca, came in last night; was with all the English families on the beach; heard the firing, and afterwards that thirteen armed men had gone to a small estate and demanded food; the captain of the Partido got out his forces, but none were taken. We judge upwards of thirty lives were sacrificed from the three vessels taken; the letter bag of the brig Morning Star, of New York, was on board the piratical boat. If some efficient measures are not taken by foreign nations, we may say, shake hands Algiers, and acknowledge the buccaniers of Cuba to be your superiors in barbarity. The subject of this is an insult on our Government, and if Commodore Porter does not be prevailed on to believe the coasts of Cuba are not quite cleared of pirates, we may expect to hear of many tragical cases shortly."
The foregoing account, I have no doubt, is strictly true.
His excellency sent for and obtained Mr. Lattin's letter twice yesterday and this day for his perusal.
We have some assassinations and a few cases of fever, yet the subject of piracy occupies the attention of most people here with whom I mingle.
John Warner, Consul of the United States at Cuba, now in Baltimore.
Extract of a letter from Mr. Mountain, Consular Agent of the United States at Havana, dated November 25, 1824, to Mr. Randall, at Washington.
"Piracies are not at an end; we learn, via Nassau, that the brig Edward, of New York, Dillingham master, from France, has been taken by the pirates, on the 15th day of October, off Cape Maise, by four boats, manned by Spaniards. The captain and crew were murdered, except the supercargo and three men, who made their escape in an open boat, and, after fifteen days' exposure, landed in a small key near Turk's Island; and from thence were taken to Nassau, New Providence."
Extract of a letter from Mr. Nelson, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States at Madrid, to the Secretary of State, dated
Madrid, September 11, 1824.
"In pursuance of my intention, expressed in a late despatch, I have prepared and presented to the Spanish Government a note, concisely recapitulating the communications on the most important subjects of my correspondence with it. These are, the murder of Lieutenant Cocke; the piracies by the vessels from Cuba; and the captures by the privateers from Porto Rico and Porto Cabello."
Copy of a letter from Mr. Nelson, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States at Madrid, to Mr. Salazar, Secretary of State, dated
Madrid, September 7, 1824.
The undersigned, the Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, begs leave to call the attention of his Catholic Majesty's Government to certain subjects of the deepest interest to the United States, on which the applications heretofore made by the undersigned have failed to arouse the attention or to obtain the slightest mark of regard from bis Catholic Majesty. The undersigned, from delicacy to the Sovereign of Spain, whom he found, on his presentation, occupied in the re-establishment of the affairs of
the Kingdom, just emerging from the confusion incident to a state of war, has forborne to urge, with the vehement pressure which his instructions from his Government would seem to require, the decisions of Spain on the several reclamations which were a long time since presented by the undersigned to his Catholic Majesty's Secretary of State.
On the 10th day of January last the undersigned had the honor to address to the Secretary of State of his Catholic Majesty a reclamation on the part of his Government, in behalf of its citizens injured by the illegal and piratical conduct of the subjects of his Catholic Majesty in the West Indian seas. It was represented that property to a very large amount had been captured and sent into the ports of his Catholic Majesty in his American possessions, in many instances against all law and justice, by pirates, who, after committing the most atrocious and nefarious deeds, sought and found shelter and an asylum in the islands, and often in the most conspicuous ports and harbors, with the fruits and profits of their inhuman outrages. In many instances these atrocities were perpetrated, not less in defiance of right and justice, by persons pretending to act under color of authority, but whose authority has never been justified; and which, if justified, could never sanction these transactions, marked by a character of piracy and rapacity which no commission could justify. In the cases of robberies committed by the Spanish vessels acting as pirates, the American property thus plundered was often carried into the ports of Cuba, and especially of the Havana, and there, in the most open and daring manner, exposed to sale in the view of the local authorities, unrestrained and unchecked by their slightest interference. American citizens have seen their property, thus violently and feloniously taken from them, offered to sale in open market, without the protection of the local Government in the assertion of their rights, and deterred from the vindication of their just claims by the fullest conviction that they would find no support in the Government of the island, but would meet, in all probability, as the requital of their temerity, the fiend-like vengeance of the murderous assassin. In other instances, where the property of the American citizen has been captured under color of authority in the vessel making the capture, the conduct of the captors has been scarcely less flagrant than that practiced by the pirates. Oftentimes has the booty found in the American vessel been partitioned among the plunderers without going into port, and distributed without legal adjudication by these lawless robbers; and when carried occasionally into port, a secret, unknown, and unfrequented port has been resorted to where law and justice were disregarded, and where every means of obtaining right was denied to the parties concerned—unapprised of the proceedings, and not permitted to avail themselves of the customary means of vindication. In the prosecution of these felonious practices American citizens have been seized and thrown into prison, and there cruelly detained, often in a horrible state of suffering, almost without the indispensable necessaries for human subsistence. In some instances, their property, which the merciless captors had spared and sent into port, has been wasted and embezzled to such an extent, that, when the mock trial to which it had been subjected had terminated even in their favor, the subject of controversy could no longer be found. Thus has every species of abuse of the rights of person and of property of American citizens been practiced in these regions. The local authorities have been appealed to in vain. The Government of Spain has been appealed to, as yet, without effect. The reclamations are again renewed—the patience of the American Government is tried to its fullest extent of sufferance—and the day is probably not very distant when the necessity of warding off these reiterated and aggravated injuries, and the obligation of doing justice to its citizens, may compel the Government of the United States to resort to measures of a more efficient character, for prevention of injury and the redress of wrongs. This interesting subject has already claimed the attention of the legislative councils of the nation. They have hitherto forborne to recommend the adoption of measures of reprisals, from a desire to manifest their friendly dispositions to his Catholic Majesty, and from the hope that the reclamations long since presented by their minister near this court would speedily receive attention, and be followed with his Majesty's answer and determination on these important questions. At no very distant period these councils will, in the regular course of their proceedings, be again assembled at the seat of the National Government, when, doubtless, this subject will again be revived by them; and such measures as the existing evils, and the disregard on the part of his Majesty of the demands hitherto presented by the American minister, will form with them irrefragable arguments for the adoption of a more efficient system of energetic policy. The undersigned has presented, in different appeals to the Government of his Catholic Majesty, the various subjects of complaint which have arisen from the misconduct of his Majesty's officers and subjects in his ultramarine possessions. One of the most prominent and aggravated was the sacrifice of a gallant officer of the American Navy, whilst peaceably entering the port of St. John, in Porto Rico, who was most wantonly and treacherously murdered by a gun from the fort, fired by the order of the officer at that time in command, in the absence of the Governor. In this instance, the American Government demands that this subject shall be rigorously investigated, and an adequate punishment inflicted on the officer by whose command this outrage was perpetrated.
An appeal has likewise been made to his Catholic Majesty's Government on the subject of the multiplied piracies which have been committed on the peaceable American commerce in the West Indian seas by vessels equipped and sailing from the ports of his Majesty's possessions in these regions, on which reiterated complaints have been made to the local authorities without effect; and on which the interference of his Majesty has been required to compel those authorities to fulfil their duty in this regard by effectual measures for the suppression of the pirates, and by co-operating with the squadron of the United States, sent into these seas for the extirpation of this scourge to the honest and lawful commerce of the whole civilized world.
Another demand upon his Majesty's Government has been made for indemnification against the enormous losses sustained by the American citizens from the captures made by vessels pretending to act under commissions issued by agents alleging to be authorized by his Catholic Majesty.
The authority to issue these commissions has never been proved; the right to issue them, on the principles avowed, of a paper blockade, without adequate force, of an interdiction of all neutral commerce with the ports of the Spanish Main, or the alleged ancient Tights of Spain over that country, has always been resisted and protested against by all neutral nations, and especially by the United States, and relinquished by his Majesty's officers in that region, and finally renounced or abandoned by his Majesty himself in his decree of December last, opening the commerce of these countries to all the world. On this subject, the undersigned, in obedience to instructions of his Government, demanded that a just indemnification should be made to all the American citizens who had suffered any loss in consequence of these illegal acts, done under color and pretence of his Majesty's authority, but really perpetrated in violation of all laws and justice, whose obligation is acknowledged by all the civilized nations of the world.
The release of all citizens and surrender of all American property, whose condition had not been changed, but was unjustifiably and illegally detained, was also required.
The undersigned begs leave to present to his excellency this rapid and cursory sketch of the most important subjects of complaint which he was instructed to press upon the Government of his Catholic Majesty; he begs leave to refer his excellency to the different notes presented by him, dated the 10th and 23d of January, and the 3d of February last, in which these grievances are more minutely and specially detailed, and where the appropriate and specific redress demanded is more explicitly and at large stated than the undersigned has considered it necessary at this time to recapitulate.
The undersigned begs leave to urge upon his excellency the necessity of an early answer to these applications, that his Government may learn how far the spirit and disposition of an harmonious intercourse is reciprocated towards the United States by his Catholic Majesty, that they may be confirmed in that opinion, which they have ever entertained, that an appeal to his Majesty's honor is only necessary to obtain the redress of grievances inflicted without his sanction and authority, and that the United States may be relieved from the painful necessity of deciding that an appeal to a more energetic policy, totally at variance with their ardent desire to preserve harmony and avoid collision, is at length become absolutely and indispensably necessary.
The undersigned tenders to his excellency his most distinguished consideration, and subscribes himself his excellency's very humble and obedient servant,
His Excellency Don Lots Maria de Salazar,
First Secretary of State and of the Despatch, ad interim.
REPORT FROM THE NAVY DEPARTMENT.
Navy Department, January 12, 1825.
The Secretary of the Navy has the honor to present the following report, in answer to two resolutions of the Senate of the United States, on the subject of piracies; one of which was passed on December 21, 1824, and the other on the 23d of the same month.
Immediately after the passage of the law of December 20, 1822, "authorizing an additional naval force for the suppression of piracy," the vessels contemplated in that act were purchased and prepared for sea, and, with others, placed under the command of Captain David Porter. They consisted of the sloops John Adams and Hornet; the brig Spark; the schooners Porpoise, Grampus, Alligator, and Shark; the Sea Gull, and eight small schooners; five barges, and one transport ship; in all, seventeen vessels of different sizes, besides the barges.
On February 14, 1823, Captain Porter sailed from the United States, under orders dated February 1, 1823, a copy of which is annexed to this report, and marked A.
The manner in which Captain Porter has performed the duty assigned him, and the "information" received from him, will be seen by the reports from this Department to the President of the United States, and communicated by him with his message at the commencement of the last and present sessions of Congress; and by paper marked B, which was unintentionally omitted in the report from this Department on the first of December last.
All the vessels above enumerated, except four, have been uniformly employed in the object, so far as their size and the necessity of occasional returns into port for stores and repairs would permit. Of the four vessels above alluded to, the Alligator and Wild Cat have been lost, and the Greyhound and Jackal were sold, "being so much out of repair that it was not for the interest of the United States to repair the same."
There are now employed in the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico thirteen vessels and five barges; and the frigate Constellation will join the squadron in a few days, her crew being nearly completed. The disposition of the force has been left principally to the commanding officer, who, being in the region where its services were required, was best able to judge of the positions in which the vessels should be placed, and the particular duties each should perform.
The papers herewith transmitted, marked C and D, having been written in answer to letters from the Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, it appears to be proper to communicate them as part of the report from this Department.
SAM. L. SOUTHARD.
The President of the United States.
Navy Department, February 1, 1823.
Sir: You have been appointed to the command of a squadron, fitted out under an act of Congress of the 20th of December last, to cruise in the West Indian seas and Gulf of Mexico for the purpose of suppressing piracy and affording effectual protection to the citizens and commerce of the United States. Your attention will also be extended to the suppression of the slave trade, according to the provisions of the several acts of Congress on that subject; copies of which, and of the instructions heretofore given to our naval commanders thereon, are herewith sent to you. While it is your duty to protect our commerce against all unlawful interruption, and to guard the rights both of person and property of the citizens of the United States wherever it shall become necessary, you will observe the utmost caution not to encroach upon the rights of others; and should you at anytime be brought into discussion or collision with any foreign power in relation to such rights, it will be expedient and proper that the same should be conducted with as much moderation and forbearance as is consistent with the honor of your country and the just claims of its citizens. Should you, in your cruise, fall in with any foreign naval force engaged in
the suppression of piracy, it is desirable that harmony and a good understanding should be cultivated between you; and you will do everything on your part that accords with the honor of the American flag to promote this object. So soon as the vessels at Norfolk shall be ready for sea, you will proceed to the West Indies by such route as you shall judge best for the purpose of effecting the object of your cruise. You will establish at Thompson's Island, usually called Key West, a depot, and land the ordnance and marines to protect the stores and provisions; if, however, you shall find any important objection to this place, and a more suitable and convenient one can be found, you are at liberty to select it as a depot.
You will announce your arrival and object to the authorities, civil and military, of the island of Cuba, and endeavor to obtain as far as shall be practicable their co-operation, or at least their favorable and friendly support, giving them the most unequivocal assurance that your sole object is the destruction of pirates. The system of piracy which has grown up in the West Indies has obviously arisen from the war between Spain and the new Governments, her late provinces in this hemisphere, and from the limited force in the islands and their sparse population, many portions of each being entirely uninhabited and desolate, to which the active authority of the Government does not extend. It is understood that establishments have been made by parties of those banditti in those uninhabited parts, to which they carry their plunder, and retreat in time of danger. It cannot be presumed that the Government of any island will afford any protection or countenance to such robbers. It may, on the contrary, confidently be believed that all Governments, and particularly those most exposed, will afford all means in their power for their suppression.
Pirates are considered, by the law of nations, the enemies of the human race. It is the duty of all nations to put them down; and none who respect their own character or interest will refuse to do it, much less afford them an asylum and protection. The nation that makes the greatest exertions to suppress such banditti has the greatest merit. In making such exertions, it has a right to the aid of every other power to the extent of its means, and to the enjoyment, under its sanction, of all its rights in the pursuit of the object.
In the case of belligerents, where the army of one party enters the territory of a neutral power, the army of the other has a right to follow it there. In the case of pirates, the right of the armed force of one power to follow them into the territory of another is more complete. In regard to pirates, there is no neutral party, they being the enemies of the human race; all nations are parties against them, and may be considered as allies. The object and intention of our Government is to respect the feelings as well as the rights of others, both in substance and in form, in all the measures which may be adopted to accomplish the end in view. Should, therefore, the crews of any vessels which you have seen engaged in acts of piracy, or which you have just cause to suspect of being of that character, retreat into the ports, harbors, or settled parts of the island, you may enter, in pursuit of them, such ports, harbors, and settled parts of the country, for the purpose of aiding the local authorities or people, as the case may be, to seize and bring the offenders to justice, previously giving notice that this is your sole object.
Where a Government exists and is felt, you will in all instances respect the local authorities, and only act in aid of and co-operation with them, it being the exclusive purpose of the United States to suppress piracy, an object in which all nations are equally interested, and in the accomplishment of which the Spanish authorities and people will, it is presumed, cordially co-operate with you. If, in the pursuit of pirates, found at sea, they shall retreat into the unsettled parts of the islands or foreign territory, you are at liberty to pursue them so long only as there is reasonable prospect of being able to apprehend them; and in no case are you at liberty to pursue and apprehend any one after having been forbidden so to do by competent authority of the local Government. And should you, on such pursuit, apprehend any pirates upon land, you will deliver them over to the proper authority to be dealt with according to law, and you will furnish such evidence as shall be in your power to prove the offence alleged against them. Should the local authorities refuse to receive and prosecute such persons so apprehended, on your furnishing them with reasonable evidence of their guilt, you will then keep them safely and securely on board some of the vessels under your command, and report without delay to this Department the particular circumstances of such cases. Great complaints are made of the interruption and injury to our commerce by privateers fitted out from Spanish ports. You will endeavor to obtain from the Spanish authorities a list of the vessels so commissioned, and ascertain how far they have been instructed to intercept our trade with Mexico and the Colombian Republic, impressing upon them that, according to the well-settled rule of the law of nations, the United States will not consider any portion of coast upon the Gulf of Mexico as legally blockaded, except where a naval force is stationed sufficient to carry into effect the blockading order or decree; and that this Government does not admit the right or authority of Spain to interdict or interrupt our commerce with any portion of the coast included within the Colombian Republic or Mexican Government not actually blockaded by a competent force.
All the United States ships and vessels-of-war in the West Indies, of which a list is herewith inclosed, are placed under your command; and you will distribute them to such stations as shall appear to you best calculated to afford complete protection to our commerce, in which you will embrace the object of protecting the convoy of specie from Vera Cruz, and the Mexican coast generally, to the United States. Keep one vessel, at least, upon this service, to be at or near Vera Cruz during the healthy season of the year, and to be relieved as occasion shall require, both for the convoy of trade and to bring specie to the United States, confining the transportation to the United States only. You will be particularly watchful to preserve the health of the officers and crews under your command, and to guard, in every possible manner, against the unhealthiness of the climate, not permitting any intercourse with the shore where the yellow fever prevails, except in cases of absolute necessity.
Wishing you good health and a successful cruise, I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Com. David Porter, Commanding United States Naval Force, West Indies.
Copy of a letter from Lieutenant C. W. Skinner, commander of the United States schooner Porpoise, inclosing copies of the correspondence referred to in the letter.
United States Schooner Porpoise, Matanzas, October 24, 1824.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that, after leaving the convoy from Havana, I stretched in for this port, where I anchored on the evening of the 18th. On inquiry, I was informed no piracies had been recently committed in this vicinity. I, however, determined to despatch the boats secretly from the harbor, and examine the adjacent bays and inlets. On the night of the 19th, I placed them under command of Lieut. Hunter and acting Lieut. Johnson, with orders to examine about Point Yeacos, Sewappa bay, and Camrioca, places long notorious as a retreat for pirates. On the evening of the 22d, Lieut. Hunter returned with a piratical schooner of one carriage gun, one new American cutter, and two other boats; one, having three men on board, he captured in Sewappa bay. Every appearance justified the suspicion of piracy. The persons informed Lieut. Hunter their vessel had been taken by armed men; the boat they were in given in exchange, with a promise of returning in a few days and restoring their vessel. The next day, off Camrioca, Lieut. Hunter discovered a suspicious schooner standing to sea, in chase of a vessel in sight. On his approach, the schooner tacked, and made for the shore, closely pursued by the boats. The crew abandoned the vessel and fled to the wood, where they were sought for in vain; she proved to be a pirate, mounting one gun, and small-arms. From the number of nautical instruments, trunks of clothing, rigging, and sails, with three sets of American colors, found on board, she must have robbed several vessels. From stains of blood on the clothes, and other articles on board, I fear the unfortunate persons to whom they belonged must have been murdered. No papers were discovered which could lead to the name of the vessel or vessels captured; several articles of clothing were marked "Captain Shaw," a number with the initials "A. S." A bag on board was lettered "Brig Morning Star's letter bag." One waistcoat contained in the pocket a printed card, "Mr. M. Loris' boarding-house, Charleston, South Carolina," and appeared to have been newly printed. A medicine chest on board was put up in New York. I have delivered the prisoners to the Governor of Matanzas, and shall furnish him all the testimony in my power which can throw light on their character. The schooner I sent out last night, under command of acting Lieut. Brown, in hopes of decoying some of her former comrades. I sail with convoy to-morrow, and after joining the prize at sea, shall proceed to Thompson's Island for supplies, and return to the protection of commerce on this coast. I trust, sir, should the prize be sufficiently fortunate to meet with pirates, I shall have the pleasure to give a satisfactory account of them.
I do myself the honor to inclose the correspondence relative to the capture of the vessels and prisoners.
I have the honor to be, respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
CH. W. SKINNER.
Hon. Samuel L. Southard, Secretary of the Navy, Washington City.
United States Schooner Porpoise, Matanzas, October 23, 1824.
I deliver to your excellency three men, captured by a detachment of my boats, a few days since, under circumstances justifying a belief of their having committed piracy. An. armed schooner was also captured, which the prisoners claim as their property, alleging, in explanation, that their vessel had been forcibly seized by armed men, and, in exchange, they had received from the pirate his vessel, with a promise to return in a few days, and restore their original property; under this expectation they were anxiously awaiting her arrival. Fortunately for humanity, my boats encountered her; from the quantity of clothing, goods, and nautical instruments found on board, she must have robbed several vessels, and, from stains of blood on clothes, &c., most probably murdered the unfortunate people who fell into their hands. We found on board, also, three sets of American colors. These enormities call loudly for punishment. It affords me pleasure to deliver these people to your excellency, as I am well persuaded, from your well known regard to justice, they will meet the punishment due their crimes.
If your excellency will inform me when you will receive them, they shall be landed under an escort.
I inclose to your excellency the papers found on board; and have the honor to be, respectfully, your excellency's obedient servant,
C. W. SKINNER,
His Excellency Don Cecelio Ayillor, Governor of Matanzas.
I have just received your statement of this day, relative to the capture of a small vessel, whose crew ran to the sea shore, suspected, with much reason, to be pirates, not only on account of their flight and equipment, but of some crimes committed by them; in consequence thereof, I will give my orders to receive on the wharf, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the three men which you captured, and that you promised to remit me. I hope that to-morrow, between ten and eleven, you will have the kindness to send to this Government the officer and marine guards that joined in the capture of the vessel, to hear their respective informations, as the beginning of the summary. I hope, also, that, for their examination, you will please send the clothes stained with blood, and other articles and arms, all of which will serve for the inquiry or search, and which will be returned whenever you require it, after the matter is finished.
I now put you in mind that the papers that you mention in your statement have not come to hand.
I declare to you that your recommendable services to the cause of humanity, and in favor of our commercial relations, will be worthy of praise to the Superior Government; and for my part, I promise
you, with all the justice of the laws, and my firmness to observe them, that I will contribute to the most to the extermination of these wicked men.
With the greatest regard, I am, dear sir, &c.,
The Commander of the American Schooner-of-war Porpoise,
United States Schooner Porpoise, Matanzas, October 24, 1824.
I had the honor to receive your excellency's reply to my communication in relation to the prisoners made by this vessel, and have delivered them agreeably to your wishes. The papers which I neglected to send I forwarded immediately on discovering the omission. The clothes stained with blood, and many other articles, were in a condition so filthy, I caused them to be thrown into the sea; for a corroboration of the testimony which you will receive this day, I beg leave to refer your excellency to the Spanish officer and his interpreter, who came on board the moment of arrival, and to whom the articles alluded to were exhibited.
I have the honor to be, your excellency's obedient servant,
C. W. SKINNER.
His Excellency Don Cecelio Ayillor, Governor of Matanzas.
Copy of a letter addressed to the honorable Benjamin W. Crowninshield, Chairman of the Naval Committee in the House of Representatives.
Navy Department, December 21, 1824.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 14th instant, making certain inquiries respecting the suppression of piracy, to which I submit the following answer:
The nature and extent of the force required must necessarily be regulated by the nature and extent of the evil to be repressed. The views of the Department on this latter point are contained in the annual report made to the President of the United States, and communicated by him to Congress with his message, and to which I beg leave to refer you.
There have lately been very few, if any, vessels of a large size engaged in piratical depredations at a distance from the land. The naval force which has been employed, and which is stated in the report referred to, has succeeded in driving away or destroying vessels of that description, and has thus effected the immediate object for which it was created. But the evil has assumed another shape, for which this force does not seem to be well fitted. Our vessels, even the smallest, cannot follow the pirates into many of the creeks and inlets to which they resort—this must always be done in boats, which cannot be carried by them in sufficient numbers to be effectual; nor can the greater part of them, on account of their size and the want of accommodations for water and stores, remain long at sea, so as permanently and effectually to watch even the most suspected places.
I would, therefore, respectfully recommend three or more frigates, or sloops-of-war, as an addition to the force now in the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico, or as a substitute for the small vessels. The sloops would be as competent to the object as the frigates, and would be much less expensive. We cannot, however, detach that or even a less number from the stations where they now are without weakening our squadrons too much.
It will be necessary to build them, which can be done in less time, and at less expense, than would require to repair and fit for sea the same number of frigates. Two, or perhaps three, might be finished in four or five months. These vessels would be able to lie or cruise steadily, and for long periods, where their presence was most needed, and, being well provided with boats, could pursue into any waters where escape was attempted.
In addition to this provision, our officers should be authorized to pursue the pirates wherever they may fly. The authority which has heretofore been given on this point will be seen by the extracts from the orders to Commodore Porter, hereunto annexed, and marked A. The right to follow should be extended to the settled as well as the unsettled parts of the islands; and should this prove ineffectual, a resort will be necessary to such a general and rigorous blockade as will make both the local Governments and their subjects feel that their interest, as well as their honor, requires a respect for our rights and the rights of humanity. For such an extremity, the proposed sloops-of-war will be indispensable. What warnings should be given, or demands made upon Spain, or what negotiations had with other Governments, before this course be adopted, it is not my province to suggest. But, as these pirates are, essentially, robbers, living upon the land, and not upon the ocean, if the local Governments cannot, or will not, prevent them from inflicting such serious injuries upon us, we must seek them where they are to be found, and so punish them as to prevent a repetition of their crimes.
Should the foregoing suggestions be adopted, a law would be necessary authorizing the building of the sloops-of-war, with an appropriation of $85,000 for the cost of each, and $61,086 50 for the annual support of each; or the sums mentioned may be added to the estimates for the support of the Navy; the amount for building, under the head of building and repairs of vessels; and the other under those of—
Pay and subsistence
15 695 00
Repairs, including wear and tear
Hospital stores and medicine
In answer to your inquiry on the subject, I would suggest that it is not believed to be proper to designate, in any act of Congress, the disposition of the force, the only effect of which would be to apprise the pirates more fully of the mode and place of attack, and thus enable them more surely to escape.
It is proper to remark, that any naval force which we can apply to this object will not be sufficiently extensive to cover, at all times, every part of the shores of the islands and Gulf of Mexico; and that some merchant vessels may, and probably will, be caught, without other protection than that which their own strength affords. Hence, the suggestion of arming them is very obvious, and has been frequently made. The evils to be apprehended from it, however, are equally obvious. No sufficient pledge can be given that some of them, if armed, and feeling their power, would not abuse it, and, in the present situation of the West Indies and countries south of us, endanger our friendly relations, and commit acts almost as much to be deprecated as those against which we are attempting to guard. The natural state of merchant vessels is the peaceful and unarmed state; and although permission to arm might, in this instance, free them from some of the evils to which they would be exposed without such authority, yet it is believed that few whose only object is fair commerce would avail themselves of the legal privilege. The expense and inconvenience of arming is great, and would be illy borne by a large part of the commerce now carried on in that quarter in American vessels. The danger does not seem to be considered so urgent as to compel them to do it. Convoy has been often declined rather than submit to slight delays or changes in the course of the vessel; and it is understood that insurance is unusually low, and that the offices add little, if anything, on account of this risk. It may be effected to the West Indies at one per cent. on the outward, and one on the homeward voyage, and, in some instances, at one and a half, embracing both, which is below the actual expense of arming.
It has been sometimes proposed that the expense should be met by the Government, and protection afforded by placing on board each vessel a number of marines or soldiers; but this plan will at once be perceived to be impracticable, when the number of our merchant vessels is considered, with the different routes which they pursue, and the times at which they sail. The remedy must be extremely partial or the expense enormous. The whole marine corps would, probably, not equal one-fifth of what would be required for a sufficient and equal distribution among all.
It has also been proposed to furnish convoy at stated periods. This could be done at periods of fifteen or twenty days, from some position on our coast to some point which is considered beyond the danger. But to this there are also obvious objections. It would employ all our force in the Atlantic, and prevent attention to other objects; an evil of too serious a magnitude to be encountered. It would be impossible to extend the convoy throughout the whole cruise; and stopping at a given point, the pirates would immediately transfer and renew their attacks beyond that point, where the vessels would, in that case, be more unprotected than they now are. It would also destroy competition of enterprise among our merchants, and confine them all to the same times and course of navigation—an evil which they well know how to estimate. They would not accept your protection at such a price.
I do not, then, perceive in any of the suggestions which have been presented to my mind so cheap, efficient, and certain a remedy for the evil as that which I have preferred; and if it be adopted, we shall, after the proposed vessels are prepared, be enabled to dispose of the small schooners now employed in the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico—a force which has been found exceedingly expensive and injurious to the discipline and efficiency of the service.
I am, very respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant,
SAM'L L. SOUTHARD.
Extracts of a letter to the Honorable James Lloyd, Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs, of the Senate, dated December 29, 1824.
"I have the honor to state that there are no 'cases of piratical depredations,' or other information on the subject, in the possession of the Department, which are not referred to in the report accompanying the President's message to Congress."
"No reports of cases have been received, except those made by naval officers of such as have come, in some way, under their own observation. No memorandum has been kept of the cases detailed in the public journals, but some of them have occasionally been inclosed to the commanding officer of the station to afford him information in the discharge of his duties."
"The 'additional means' alluded to as proper to be intrusted to the Executive, if an efficient co-operation of the local Governments could not be obtained, were three or four frigates or sloops-of-war, with boats for pursuit of the pirates; authority to pursue them wherever they might attempt to escape, and authority to enforce a rigorous blockade if other efforts should prove ineffectual."
"I have not supposed that it would be expedient to authorize, by law, our merchant vessels to arm. Should Congress entertain a different opinion on this point, and pass a law on the subject, it should embrace 'provisions and restrictions' similar to those contained in the 3d and 4th sections of the 'Act to authorize the defence of the merchant vessels of the United States against French depredations,' passed June 25, 1798."