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Falkland Islands: Grant to Governor Vernet-Capture of American Sealers-Lexington sent for their Protection - Settlement at Falkland Islands broken up-Piratica' attack of Malays on Ship Friendship-Frigate Potomac despatched to punish themTown and Forts destroyed Claims upon Naples -An Envoy appointed to demand satisfaction - Demonstration of Naval Force-Claims adjusted by Treaty.-Negotiation with MexicoTreaty concerning Limits-Treaty of Commerce and Navigation.
THE management of the relations between the United States and other powers did not manifest the same want of character and capacity, that characterized the negotiations with the British government.
Towards all other nations the tone of the government was moderate but firm, and the honor and interest of the country were maintained in a manner indicative both of spirit and ability. Among the questions, that arose during the year was one relating to the Falkland Islands, so often the fruitful source of controversy between civilized nations.
between the United States and Buenos Ayres.
Lying amid the stormy seas surrounding Cape Horn, and almost within the antartic circle, they had been long deserted by man, and afforded only a shelter to the seals, which were there found in great abundance. In the adventurous voyages of the fishermen of the eastern states, who left no sea unvexed with their enterprise, these islands consequently had not been overlooked.
The number of vessels resorting there, induced the government of Buenos Ayres to suppose the islands to be valuable as possessions; and in 1829 measures were taken, upon the application of a foreigner by the name of Don Louis Vernet, to assert its title. A lease was given to him of the exclusive right of fishing at those islands and the coast adjacent to Cape Horn, and he was at the same time appointed Governor of Falkland Islands.
After various attempts to induce the sealers to take out licenses to fish under his authority, he began to enforce his monopoly by capturing three American vessels, taking care however not to molest the English vessels, that were on the same fishing ground. It is well known to all familiar with the history of the last century, that the title of Spain to these islands has always been disputed. After the controversy between England and Spain had been adjusted, by putting the former in possession, the British government deliberately abandoned them in 1774, leaving there the usual emblems of sovereignty.
In this deserted condition they remained, the fishery being open to the whole world; until Buenos Ayres lately undertook to claim possession as succeeding to the title of Spain. How that republic entitled itself to that prerogative of the Spanish crown and became as it were its residuary legatee instead of Chili, Paraguay, Colombia or the Banda Oriental, it would be difficult to tell; and even if it were so, less of arrogance would have been more becoming in asserting a claim, which had been once before successfully resisted by England, and which had not been subsequently strengthened by the complete abandonment of the islands by all parties, until the enterprise of our citizens had shown that even the ultima thule of the Southern Ocean could be made to minister to the wants of the human race. Moderation did not however suit Don L. Vernet, who was governed solely by a spirit of cupidity, and who thought the federal
government of 1830, would submit as tamely to depredations and insults as that of 1806. He accordingly commenced asserting his title, by arresting the captains and boats' crews of the American fisherman while on shore, unsuspicious of danger, and then despatching an armed force to take possession of the vessels and bring them into port. One of these, the Superior, after taking out her cargo, he sent into the Pacific upon a sealing voyage; the Harriet was sent to Buenos Ayres for condemnation; and the third, the Breakwater, escaped from her captors and arrived in the United States.
These outrages were not suffered to pass unpunished. The President with a promptitude, which has always characterized his movements, whenever it was necessary to act in vindication of the rights of the nation against foreign aggression, immediately despatched a competent force to protect our sealers in the neighborhood of Cape Horn. Part of the crew of the Superior having been left on Staten Island, on a sealing expedition, and Governor Vernet having by the capture of their vessel deprived them of the means of departure, Captain Duncan sailed in the ship of war Lexington from Buenos Ayres for their relief.
On his arrival December (28th, 1831,) at the Falkland Islands, he took the necessary measures to break up the establishment of Governor Vernet by spiking the cannon; depriving those who were concerned in the capture of the sealers of their arms; restoring the captured property to its
owners; and transporting seven of the most prominent actors to Buenos Ayres for trial.
The nuisance was thus promptly abated, and although the government of Buenos Ayres professed great indignation at the unceremonious manner, in which a settlement under the protection of its flag had been treated; a lesson (and not the first) had been afforded it of the danger of lending that flag, as a cover to acts too nearly bordering upon piracy, to be easily distinguished.
Chastisement equally prompt and signal was inflicted on the Malays of Quallah Battoo for a piratical attack on the ship Friendship of Salem. These tribes, who were always regarded as the pirates of the East, had frequently before captured American vessels, trading on that coast, by sudden attacks on the crews.
In this instance a large portion of the crew of the Friendship was massacred, and it was deemed necessary to punish the offenders in a summary manner.
The frigate Potomac, Captain Downes, was accordingly ordered to proceed to Sumatra for that purpose, with the second mate of the Friendship on board to point out the offending tribe.
She arrived there the 5th of February, 1832, and being disguised as a merchant vessel, a boat was sent off as if for the purpose of trading with the Malays. Such strong indications of hostility were manifested, that it was not deemed prudent to land, and after observing the situation of the harbor, forts, and town, they returned to the ship.
The next morning at an early hour, a detachment of two hundred and sixty men were despatched under Lieutenant Shubrick, to storm the forts, which were five in number. They landed undiscovered, and dividing their forces, they proceeded to attack the town. Upon approaching the gate of the northernmost fort, the sailors were fired upon, but they tore down the palisades, and soon drove the Malays from the fort, leaving twelve dead upon the spot among whom was (Poona Mahamet) one of the rajahs engaged in the capture of the Friendship. The other forts were carried in the same manner, after a short resistance by the Malays, of whom between eighty and one hundred were killed, and a larger number wounded. The town was then fired and the forts destroyed. The contest lasted nearly three hours, and the loss of the Americans was three killed and ten wounded.
This chastisement left a salutary impression on the minds of these piratical tribes, and the neighboring rajahs sent deputations to Captain Downes assuring him of their friendly disposition towards the United States, and expressing their desire to obtain the friendship of the Americans.
Similar success attended the efforts of the executive to obtain redress from the government of Naples, for the sequestration and plunder of American property during the ephemeral reign of Joachim Murat. These claims arose from the seizure between the years 1809 and 1812, of several vessels with their cargoes, all
belonging to the citizens of the United States, without any pretence of their having violated any law either municipal or national. They had been invited into the Neapolitan ports by the minister of foreign affairs, and when enticed in that manner into the power of Murat, they were seized under the Berlin and Milan decrees. The cargoes were sold and the vessels also, (except some which were taken into the royal service,) and the proceeds put into the public Treasury. The proper return for this violation of our national flag, after a suitable demand of redress would have been reprisals or a bombardment of the Neapolitan capital, but yielding to the councils of timidity, no decisive steps were taken by the American government to enforce these claims, until after the conclusion of the treaty, for the adjustment of similar claims upon France. An ill conceived attempt was indeed made at negotiation by Mr Pinckney in 1816, as he was hurrying to St Petersburgh; but it was feebly followed up, and the American envoy was diverted from his purpose by the finesse of the Neapolitan Court, and the mission proved a complete abortion. A demand too was made during the administration of Mr Adams by Mr Appleton, who was sent as agent to Naples for that purpose, but it was not followed with any results.
After Mr Livingston became Secretary of State, he thought it advisable to renew the negotiation for the adjustment of these claims, and arrangements were made to demand satisfaction in an imposing manner. John Nelson of
Maryland was appointed minister at Naples, with the rank of Charge d'Affairs in October, 1831, and was directed to require an explicit answer from the Neapolitan government. Knowing the effect, that a suitable demonstration of force would produce on that government, the vessels of war belonging to the United States then in the Mediterranean, were ordered to assemble in the harbor of Naples; leaving it to the imagination of the royal advisers, to divine with what motive a powerful fleet was concentrated near their capital at the critical moment, when a demand of redress for spoliations upon American commerce was renewed for the third and last time. The ordinary objections, which had been before urged against their allowance, would no longer answer. mark and France had admitted the validity of claims similarly situated against their respective governments; and treaties had been concluded, by their stipulating to pay specified sums as indemnities to the United States. Naples was therefore obliged to choose between the admission of these claims, or the enmity of the United States, whose fleet was then in situation to inflict ample vengeance on her capital, for the unatoned insult to the American flag.
With these considerations full in their minds, and the ominous name of Nelson - (a name fraught with recollections of bombarded capitals and exacted indemnities) at the end of each despatch, the Neapolitan ministers hesitated to assume the responsibility of rejecting the demands of
the American minister, and the negotiation progressed rapidly towards a favorable conclusion. Some difficulty indeed occurred as to the amount to be paid to the United States, and at one moment the negotiation seemed to be at an end; - the American minister having demanded his passport, and made his arrangements to go on board the fleet; but the Neapolitan cabinet finally concluded to yield that point, and the negotiation was resumed, and the sum of $1,720,000, or 2,115,00C ducats was inserted in the treaty, as the indemnity to be paid by Naples to the United States for her spoliations upon American commerce, in nine equal instalments with interest at four per cent from the ratification of the treaty.
Equal success attended the efforts of the administration in the negotiation with Mexico.
For several years past, that republic had regarded the United States with great jealousy, which, although unfounded, had nevertheless proved an insurmountable obstacle to the conclusion of any satisfactory treaty.
Two parties, originating in a masonic feud, had distracted the Mexican capital for many years; and from the circumstance, that the American Minister had procured the charter of one of the lodges from the United States, he was identified by the other party with the Yorkinos, whose charter he had procured. local prejudice was thus excited against him, which the agents of Great Britain were not unwilling to foster, with the view of promoting their own rival interests.
This spirit displayed itself not only in threats against the American minister, but also in an unwillingness to enter into any treaty with the United States.
The ratification of the treaty adjusting the boundary line between the United States and Mexico, which had been agreed upon in 1828, was thus delayed for several years after it had been signed by the plenipotentiaries of the parties. By that treaty the same boundary was established, that was described in the treaty between the United States and Spain, concluded February 22, 1819; but the difficulties above alluded to, prevented its ratification.
In order to remove the obstacles arising from the unfounded prejudices entertained against the American minister, the President concluded to substitute one of inferior rank. Under his auspices the treaty was ratified.
A treaty of commerce and navigation was also concluded for eight years, and thence until one of the parties should give one year's notice of its intention to terminate the same. By this treaty, the commercial intercourse between the two countries is placed upon the same footing of liberality and reciprocity, that is observed in all the commercial treaties with the United States.
A better understanding was thus produced between this country and Mexico, and an opportu nity afforded to the people of that country to ascertain, by experience, how groundless were their suspicions of the feeling and policy of the American government towards them.