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probably devise means for the liberation of our unfortunate captives at Algiers, whose situation has justly excited much sympathy in the people of this country. Should you find a suitable channel, therefore, through which
you can negotiate their immediate release, you are authorized to go as far as three thousand dollars a man; but a less sum may probably effect the object. Whatever may be the result of the attempt, you will, for obvious reasons, not let it be understood as proceeding from this Gove ernment, but rather from the friends of the parties themselves. As yet, we have information only of eleven persons, (the crew of the brig Edwin, of Salem,) being confined at Algiers; and it is to be hoped that no addition has since been made to the number. If success should attend your efforts
, you will draw upon this department for the necessary funds for paying their ransom, and providing for their comfortable return to their country and friends.
On the arrival of Mr. Noah at Cadiz, in the autumn of 1813, he thought proper to select Richard R. Keene, a native of Maryland, but claiming at that time to be a Spanish subject, as an agent to negotiate the liberation of the captives in question. Before any final agreement, however, with him, Mr. Noah addressed a note to Mr. Hackley, consul of the United States at Cadiz, dated October 2, 1813. In this note he states that he is authorized by the United States to negotiate for the release of these prisoners. After touching upon other matters connected with the chief subject, he expresses a wish for Mr. Hackley's advice in the designation of a suitable agent, and on the compensation proper to be allowed him. Mr. Hackley states, that, having learned that Mr. Keene had proposed to undertake a voyage to Algiers to effect the contemplated release, he does not hesitate, after a tribute to his character and abilities, to recommend him as a person every way qualified for the attempt. In regard to compensation, Mr. Hackley also states the amount to which he thinks Mr. Keene would be entitled. On the receipt of this letter, Mr. Noah determines upon the employment of Mr. Keene, and, on the 13th of November, 1813, enters into a contract with him. It is stated in this contract that Mr. Noah is vested by his Government with competent authority for the step he is taking. The compensation to be paid Mr. Keene is one thousand dollars in advance, and nothing further if the enterprise failed; if it succeeded, he was to be allowed an additional sum of three thousand dollars, and a contingent remuneration to arise out of “any surplus that there might be above the prices to be paid for said captives, ont of an allowance at the rate of three thousand dollars for each man."
On the 5th of November preceding the date of the contract, Mr. Keene had furnished himself, in furtherance of the objects of the mission, with a despateh from the Spanish Government, addressed to the Spanish consul general at Algiers. This instrument, after reciting that the Government of Spain was desirous of giving new proofs to the United States of the protection dispensed to their commerce, as well as to the individuals employed in it, enjoins it upon the consul general to make all possible exertions, without compromising their responsibility, to obtain the liberation of twelve American citizens who were captives at Algiers; and in case any present of unusual gratification was found necessary, he was directed to give advice of the same, for the ultimate determination of the regency, by whose order the despatch was stated to be communicated.
On the 12th of November he obtained, also, from the British ambassa
dor in Spain, (Sir Henry Wellesley,) a letter addressed to the British viceconsul at Algiers. In this letter, Mr. Keene's object is represented to be humane in its character, and growing out of the instigation of American merchants residing at Cadiz. As such, he is recommended to the assistance and protection of the British vice-consul.
So prepared, and receiving a letter of instructions from Mr. Noah, dated Gibraltar, January 20th, 1814, Mr. Keene proceeded for Algiers. It is not necessary to state all that took place there, as described in his letter to Mr. Noah, written from Algiers May the 22d, 1814. On his first arrival, he was reported as the bearer of despatches from the Spanish regency to their consul. He then opened his negotiation on the asserted instigation of the American merchants at Cadiz. In the end, he obtained the release of two of the crew of the Edwin, viz: William Turner and John Clark; for each of whom he claimed an allowance of three thousand dollars. He effected, also, the liberation of four other individuals, not of the crew of the Edwin, but who all swore that they were born in New Orleans. These men were not, in fact, in actual slavery. They had been landed at Algiers in April, 1814, from on board the British frigate Franchise. The account which they gave of themselves was, that they sailed from New Orleans in 1806, bound to Bordeaux; that, on their arrival at the latter place, they were, by orders from the Government, sent on board the French frigate Dromedary, that this frigate was captured near Malta by the British frigate Euryalus; that they were sent as prisoners to Malta, and afterwards placed on board the Franchise, from which they were landed at Algiers as aforesaid. For these four men Mr. Keene paid six thousand dollars.
To meet the expenses thus incurred, and others growing out of the operation, (such as the compensation of Mr. Keene, losses on exchange, and other incidental charges, Mr. Noah drew bills on the Department of State for 18,743 dollars, in favor of Mr. Butler, a merchant at Gibraltar
. These bills were protested, upon the ground that Mr. Noah had not acted in conformity with his instructions. It afterwards appearing, from the representations of our consul at Gibraltar, that, at the time of drawing, Mr. Noah had shown his instructions to Mr. Butler, who had negotiated his bills upon the faith of them, and likewise that it was important to our naval operations in the Mediterranean that the credit of the agents of the United States should be sustained in that quarter, it was thought proper to accept the bills. After acceptance, but before payment, information was received that part of a sum of money which had fallen into Mr. Noah's hands at Tunis had been pledged by him to Mr. Butler for payment of the bills, in case they were not paid here. On receiving this information, the department declined making the payment at first intended. The bills were then returned to Mr. Noah, who paid them at Tunis, out of the money stated as above to be in his hands. This money was placed in his hands by Commodore Decatur. It had been wrested by the latter from the Bey of Tunis in payment of certain English prizes belonging to Winslow Lewis, of Boston, and sent into Tunis by the privateer Abelino, Captain Weyer. Captain Weyer being at Tunis, constituted Mr. Noah, by letter of January 16th, 1815, agent for such prizes as he should send into that port. It was in the capacity of agent for the privateer that Commodore Decatur paid over the money to Mr. Noah.
On learning the above facts, Mr, Lewis addressed a claim to the De
partment of State, alleging that he ought to be paid the amount of the bills, to satisfy which his funds in the hands of Mr. Noah had been thus appropriated, and which had once actually been accepted by the Government. At first, it was intimated to Mr. Lewis that there seemed to be much reason in his claim ; but doubts on the propriety of satisfying it afterwards arose, on becoming acquainted with the private capacity in which Mr. Noah' had received the funds, and the whole concomitant circumstances.
On mature consideration of the foregoing facts, I proceed to offer such opinions as I have formed on the questions stated in the beginning.
1. In order to a just comprehension of the first question, the general nature of Mr. Noah's instructions must be adverted to. It is conceived that they are to be viewed as merely subordinate to the principal objects of his appointment. A distinct, independent mission for the release of the captives, does not appear (at that time, at least, and in the person of Mr. Noah) to have been in contemplation. About to depart as a consul for Tunis, this duty was devolved upon him as incidental to his primary and permanent movement. The execution of it is made to depend, by every just implication, upon fit concurring circumstances. There is nothing positive in the character of the obligation created in him to fulfil it; a limited door merely being opened for discretion to do its sound office. As little did it fall within their scope to impart any costliness to the attempt, and least of all to invest it with any circumstances of publicity. Still I think that, taken as an abstract question, the employment of an agent may have been justified under his power. On a favorable aspect of events, inviting him to go forward in the object, the instrumentality of some third person at Algiers, selected under the expressed cautions and implied restraints held out, may have become indispensable to its accomplishment.
I am quite as clear in the opinion that the true meaning of the instructions was lost sight of by the employment of Mr. Keene, and in the manner stated.
I perceive, in the first place, no authority for the amount stipulated and paid as his compensation. Three thousand dollars was the maximum to be allowed for each man. This sum, with the expenses incident to the comfortable return of the captives, if released, are the only disbursements for which I am able to discover any warrant in the instructions. If it be objected that, on the hypothesis of an agent rightfully employed, some compensation would reasonably be due for his services, I would reply, that Mr. Noah's contract with Mr. Keene has, in one part of it, furnished
A contingent reward is held out to him out of moneys to be saved from the three thousand dollars allotted as the highest price for each redeemed captive. I can see no authority to have placed the reward upon any other than this footing. The department, in fixing three thousand dollars as the utmost sum, must have designed that it should comprehend every expense necessary to cover the release. I am driven to this conclusion in the absence of any express authority to incur the cost of a separate agency; and am the less disposed to infer such an authority constructively, since the instructions terminate with an engageThent to defray the charges of a passage home, leaving out of view every other object. The words,“ necessary funds for paying their ransom,” in the last sentence, must be restricted to the three thousand dollars. A good
reason may be imagined for placing the reward upon this contingent ground. The self-interest of the agent would thereby have coupled itself with his efforts to effect the redemption at low rates. If, through any extraordinary exertion and hazards, resulting in benefits of proportionate magnitude, a claim had been founded to other and better compensation, this, indeed, might well, in the end, have been addressed to the liberal and kind justice of the American Government. But, for Mr. Noah to pay Mr. Keene an independent sum, and in the first instance, appears to me an act in which he was not justified.
If, however, any doubts should be felt upon this point, there can scarce be any room for any under other views of the employment of this agent. It presents features obviously thwarting the spirit and scope of the instructions in points vitally interwoven with their execution. The steps taken would seem to indicale, on the minds of both principal and agent, the impression of an independent and prominent mission. Instead of any attempts entered upon at Malaga or Marseilles, (which, in the first instance, it might have been natural to expect,) both these places are passed by: Nor does it appear that any effort was made to use the intervention of any individual resident at Algiers, especially some person in a capacity wholly private—a measure also to have been looked for, both as it might have reduced the expense of the enterprise, and interposed additional shields against the discovery of the Government as a party to it. But, grant that the force of such suggestions may be overruled, and that Cadiz was the fit place whence to give the operation its first impulse : yet how shall we reconcile the conduct that followed, with the rule marked down in the instructions ? To say no more of them, it must be admitted that to exclude the suspicion of the governmental agency is stamped as a leading and positive characteristic. Thus warned, Mr. Noah, in his letter to Mr. Hackley, sets out with distinctly affirming that the United States had invested him with authority. This, although the latter was a con sul, does not appear to have been necessary. The same fact is agair proclaimed upon the face of a formal contract with Mr. Keene. Bu yielding to all that might be urged in defence of these disclosures, ther seems nothing left to excuse the nature of the voyage to Algiers. It i clothed with something of the livery of an embassy itself. Instead o secrecy and silence, eclat rather marks its movements. A despatch wa obtained from the Spanish Government, bearing indications (too plain t be misunderstood) that it was possessed of the real ground upon whic Mr. Noah stood. Another official paper is sought at the hands of th British ambassador, as a further passport to Mr. Keene; and all th known to Mr. Noah. What will every well-judging mind say to suc facts ? Undoubtedly, that they tended to make known the very authori that ought to have been hidden. The despatch from the Spanish regen might also be construed as indicative of a favor supposed to be accordo to the United States. Now, taking this to be one of the meanings which it is susceptible, it is possible that it might not have been with the intentions of our own Government, in relation to such an enterpri
: to invite a favor. Moreover, the letter of Sir Henry Wellesley is ask and accepted, when America and England stood in the attitude of b ligerents. Passing over animadversions that hence occur, such measu were just such as were adapted to strip off the veil which Mr. No should sedulously have worn. It is against all sound anticipations
suppose that they did not at once lay his genuine case bare. Secrets are prone to escape through much smaller openings. It is true, that in his note to Mr. Hackley, and in his letter of instructions to Mr. Keene, he adverts to the necessity of keeping his Government out of sight. In the Spanish despatch, there is also an outward allusion to the same necessity. But these their concealments) need not be the subject of remark, when opposed by the more intelligible and positive indications which pointed to another conclusion, by the open machinery which foreign Governments and functionaries were made to interpose in advancement of the undertaking. Considering that Mr. Keene was provided with both the Spanish despatch and the letter from the English ambassador before the middle of November, and that he did not embark until February, there is no violence done to credulity in supposing that the knowledge of his true objects and authority preceded his own arrival at Algiers. This--and it is no very strained presumption-might serve in part to account for the extravagance which, in the first instance, characterized the Dey's demands. When we look to the actual state of our relations with Spain, as
well as England, at that epoch, it can scarcely be going too far to conjec· ture that neither their policy nor their friendship could have been deeply offended at such demands.
Should such reasoning be thought in anywise defective, in relation to making known the United States as at the bottom of the proceeding, another fact presents itself, of force not to be resisted. It is not to be denied that the affair was ushered in at Algiers as one to which some Government had lent its instrumentality. Mr. Keene, in his letter of the 221 of May, 1814, states that, on his arrival, the public barge came alongside of their vessel, and that he was reported as charged with despatches from the Spanish Government. He states further, that he conducted the negotiation in the name of the regency. Now this appears to me to stand in like hostility to the instructions. The participation, even in a formal or mere exterior way, of any Government whatever, could never have been contemplated by the Department of State. The course of reasoning that would ascribe advantages to such a plan is not easily to be sustained. It is supposed, on the contrary, that it must have been productive of obstacles; and, at all events, it is taken to be against the clearly-expressed intention of the instructions, which was to place the whole interference upon a footing private and unostentatious.
In answer, then, specifically, to the first question, I'am of opinion that the power given to Mr. Noah might have justified the employment of an agent; but that it does not justify such an agent as he employed, and in the manner stated.
2. If such an authority was given, could it be considered as justifying Mr. Noah in the payment of the full limit of three thousand dollars, with out an experiment being made to obtain the release for a less sum?
This question I am disposed to answer in the affirmative. If an agent be authorized to pay a fixed sum, I do not see that he absolutely violates his authority by paying the whole at once, although a hope may have been entertained, and an intimation thrown out, that the end might probably have been accomplished for less. It may well be an objection against the discreet exercise of the authority. A mind prudent and skilfal would be slow thus to act. But I do not feel prepared to say that it would be a positive breach. Circumstances may be conceived, leading to a rational belief beforehand that the smaller sum would not be ac