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to give an opinion, as arbitrator, in the differences, which have arisen between these two powers, on the subject of the interpretation of the first article of the treaty, which they concluded at Ghent on the 24 December 1814, the Emperor has taken cognizance of all the acts, memorials and notes, in which the respective plenipotentiaries have set forth, to his administration of foreign affairs, the arguments, upon which each of the litigant parties depends in support of the interpretation, given by it to the said article. "Considering that the American plenipotentiary, in his note of the 4 (16th) November 1821, and the British, in his note of the 8th (20) October of the same year, have declared, that, it is upon the construction of the text of the article, as it stands, that the arbitrator's decision should be founded, and that both have appealed, only as subsidiary means to the general principles of the law of nations and of maritime law, the Emperor is of opinion, that the question can only be decided according to the literal and grammatical sense of the first article of the treaty of Ghent'—
"Considering that the period, upon the signification of which doubts have arisen, is expressed as follows;
"All territory, &c. shall be restored without delay, and without causing any destruction or carrying away any of the artillery, or other public property originally captured in the said forts or places, and which shall remain therein upon the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty, or any slaves or other private property;
"Considering, that in this period, the words, originally captured and which shall remain therein upon the exchange of the ratifications, form an incidental phrase, which can have respect grammatically, only to the substantives or subjects, which precede, the emperor is of opinion,
"That the first article of the treaty of Ghent thus prohibits the contracting parties from carrying away from the places, of which it stipulates the restitution, not only the public property, which might have been originally captured there, and which should remain therein upon the exchange of the ratifications, but that it prohibits the carrying away from these same places, any private property whatever,
"That, on the other hand, these two prohibitions are solely applicable to the places, of which the article stipulates the restitution.
"That the United States of America are entitled to a just indemnification, from Great Britain, for all private property carried
away by the British forces, and as the question regards slaves more especially, for all such slaves as were carried away by the British forces, from the places and territories of which the restitution was stipulated by the treaty, in quitting the said places and territories.
"That the United States are entitled to consider as having been so carried away, all such slaves as may have been transported from the above mentioned territories on board of the British vessels, within the waters of the said territories, and who, for this reason, have not been restored.
"But that, if there should be any American slaves who were carried away from territories, of which the first article of the treaty of Ghent has not stipulated the restitution to the United States, the United States are not to claim an indemnification for the said slaves.
"The emperor declares, besides, that he is ready to exercise the office of mediator, which has been conferred on him beforehand by the two states, in the negotiations which must ensue between them in consequence of the award, which they have demanded.
"Done at St. Petersburg, 22d April 1822."
The decision of the Emperor Alexander being strictly literal and grammatical, a slight ambiguity arose concerning the extent, to which the award applied, and which the British minister, Sir Charles Bagot, (formerly in this country) lost no time in presenting to the consideration of the Imperial government. Sir Charles Bagot understood, that his government was not bound to indemnify for slaves, coming from places, never occupied by British forces, and that voluntarily joined their troops, and, as they were not carried away from places or territories captured during the war, a restitution or indemnity was not implied. Upon this point the Russian secretary of state expressed himself in the following manner :
"The Emperor, having by the mutual consent of the two plenipotentiaries given an opinion, founded solely upon the sense, which results from the text of the article in dispute, does not think himself called upon to decide here any question, relative to what the laws of war permit or forbid to the belligerents, but, always faithful to the grammatical interpretation of the 1st article of the treaty of
Ghent, his Imperial Majesty declares a second time, that it appears to him according to this interpretation :
"That in quitting the places and territories, of which the treaty of Ghent stipulates the restitution to the United States, his Britannic Majesty's forces had no right to carry away from these same places and territories any slave by whatever means he had fallen, or come into their power.
"But that if, during the war, American slaves had been carried away by the English forces from other places, than those, of which the treaty of Ghent stipulates the restitution, upon the territory or on board British vessels, Great Britain should not be bound to indemnify the United States for the loss of these slaves, by whatever means they might have fallen or come into the power of her officers."
Under this general arbitration, commissioners* were appointed by the respective governments to ascertain the number and value of the slaves removed. But great difficulty and delay occurred in the progress of this business, principally owing to the nature of proof and the variety of claims. The commissioners also disagreed on two points, whether interest should be allowed on the claims, and whether the claims of citizens from Louisiana for slaves should be received. The British commissioner declined having recourse to the manner, prescribed in the convention for the determination of these differences on the ground, that neither of the claims were embraced by any provision of that instrument.†
* Langdon Cheves on the part of the United States, and George Jackson on that of Great Britain.
+ Number of the Slaves and amount, conformably to the Average Value agreed upon and fixed by the Commission.
In the autumn of 1826, the British government offered to pay a round sum of 1,204,960* dollars in full discharge of all claims, that might be presented under the Imperial decision. This was accepted, and commissioners, (Messrs. Cheves, Pleasants and Sewall) were subsequently appointed by this government to distribute the money to the different claimants; that laborious work is now completed.
* "ART. 1. His Majesty the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland agrees to pay, and the United States of America agree to receive, for the use of the persons entitled to indemnification and compensation by virtue of the said decision and convention, the sum of twelve hundred and four thousand nine hundred and sixty dollars, current money of the United States, in lieu of, and in full and complete satisfaction for, all sums claimed or claimable from Great Britain, by any person or persons whatsoever, under the said decision and convention.
"ART. 2. Convention cancelled.
"ART. 3. The said sum of twelve hundred and four thousand nine hundred and sixty dollars shall be paid at Washington to such person or persons as shall be duly authorized, on the part of the United States, to receive the same, in two equal payments as follows:
"The payment of the first half to be made twenty days after official notification shall have been made, by the government of the United States, to his Britannic Majesty's minister in the said United States, of the ratification of the present convention by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate thereof.
"And the payment of the second half to be made on the first day of August 1827.
"ART. 4. Final adjustment.
"ART. 5. Documents, &c. to be delivered up.
"ART. 6. Ratification in six months.
"Done at London, this thirteenth day of November, in the year of
our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six.
“[L. s.] ALBERT GALLATIN,
"[L. S.] WILLIAM HUSKISSON,
The foremost among Christian nations to abolish the slave trade in portions of their own country, the United States were, also, the first to adopt the most vigorous measures to suppress it on the ocean and the coasts of Africa.* Though it has found but one faithful and sincere ally in Europe in prosecuting this business, there is no period in the history of our government, that reflects a purer or steadier lustre upon it. To accomplish a work, solely, of the most obvious justice and the holiest benevolence, has cost more blood, labour and treasure than has yet attended any reform, in which nations have been engaged; but enough has already been done to show, past a doubt, that this abominable traffic has been assailed in a vital part, though it may occupy years to burn out and eradicate a disease, so deeply seated and embedded. We do not claim for the American government a greater share of philanthropy and humanity,—a higher degree of energy and perseverance than would have actuated any other government, equally well acquainted with the magnitude of this evil. But, at least, we may say, that the Americans cannot be supposed less indifferent, than other nations, to the blessing and advantage of civil and political liberty. Nor is the obligation of entering upon this enterprise, heightened by the consideration, that they, themselves, have introduced slavery into their own country.
In closing these general remarks, we are unwilling to pass over in silence the miserable slander, that has emanated from a foreign people, in attributing to one of the nations, embarked in this great undertaking, the corrupt and wicked desire and motive of preventing the growth of foreign colonial possessions, or the imputation, equally contemptible and ill founded, that the world is indebted for all the benefits, it may receive from the humane acts of the American govern
* See laws of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island all passed before 1790, (and after they became independent States) abolishing the slave trade.