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aimed at the American trade, which had been carried on with considerable activity and success within the limits of the prohibition. The Russian government justified the proceeding on the ground of the discovery of Behring's straights and the neighboring islands, by a navigator of that name, in the year 1728, and the consequent settlement at New Archangel, claiming that the fifty-first degree of latitude being equally distant from this establishment, and the American territory at the mouth of Columbia river, was the true boundary between them: and that they, owning both the Asiatic and American coasts, north of that parallel, had a right to interdict the navigation of the intervening waters, to the extent stated in the ukase.
The American government claimed, that being in possession of much the greatest portion of the North American continent, and having explored the whole, there was now no vacant territory which could be the subject of new colonization. With existing European colonies, on this continent they had no controversy, but new ones were inadmissible. This important and commanding ground having been taken with firmness, less difficulty has been found in maintaining it than was apprehended. The Russian government acquiesced so far as to abstain from molesting the American trade in that quarter.
Deported slaves. By the first article of the treaty of Ghent, it was stipulated, that all territory, possessions, and places taken from either party by the other, during the war, should be restored without carrying away any slaves, or other private property. The British commanders at the several posts, having charge of the embarkation, construed this provision to extend only to such slaves and other private property as might have come into their possession after the ratification of the treaty, claiming that property taken in the course of the war was, by the law of nations, vested in the captors, and was not either according to the letter or spirit of the treaty, to be restored. Regulating their conduct on this principle, they carried away a considerable number of slaves, which they had captured, or enticed away from their masters during the contest. The claim on the part of the American government, in behalf of the owners was, that the article embraced all slaves, and other private property, in possession of the British at their several posts, in the United States, at whatever period of the war such possession was acquired. On this principle, much the greater part of the property carried off by the British,
was reclaimed. By a very wise and humane, though unusual provision in the treaty, it was stipulated, that if any controversy should arise in the execution of its articles, about which the parties could not agree, it should be submitted to the arbitrament and final decision of some friendly power. After several fruitless attempts to adjust this dispute with the British government, the emperor of Russia was selected as the arbiter, to decide the controversy. His decision was in favor of the American claim, and the owners were compensated from the British treasury. The introduction and successful application of the principle of submitting national disputes to arbitration, is justly ranked among the most important events of the present period. As nations acknowledge no superior, their controversies must be settled, either by the sword, by the acquiescence of the weaker to the stronger, however unfounded his claims, or by reference to some mutual friend. Could the latter method, now happily introduced, be generally adopted,it would form a new and important era in the history of man, and go far to relieve the human family from the desolating scourge of war.
Russian ukase against freemasonry. Since the accession of Alexander to the throne of Russia, the intercourse between that nation and the United States has generally been of a friendly character. No subject of collision has arisen to disturb the harmony, except the one relating to the northwest coast, which was settled with much less difficulty than usually attends such affairs. The jealousy of the emperor, however, in regard to republicanism, and principles of an anti-monarchal tendency seemed to increase with his knowledge of the institutions of this country. Freemasonry, a society of great antiquity, and co-extensive with the civilized world, became the subject of his peculiar distrust. The members of this fraternity, in different parts of the world, hold each other as brethren, and maintain a friendly intercourse. However much their principles may, in some instances, have been perverted, they profess, as masons, to be quiet subjects of the governments under which they live, and to be opposed to revolutions and conspiracies against its authority. The emperor, apprehending that the freemasons of his dominions, by a correspondence with their brethren in the United States, might imbibe notions hostile to the principles of despotism, and introduce the seeds of a revolution, by a ukase of the 30th of August, 1822, abolished the institution, and prohibited, under severe penalties, all secret societies in his dominions. All members of such so.
cieties were required to engage in writing, to abandon them, and every public officer was further obliged to make a written declaration, whether he belonged to any freemasons' lodge, or other secret society, in or out of the empire, to make known the nature of such society, and give a pledge that he would not in future belong to any fraternity of that character, on pain of being immediately dismissed from the service. The emperor introduces this rescript by a declaration, evincing his extreme solicitude and jealousy upon the subject of political innovations. "The troubles and discords," he says, "which have arisen in various other states. through the existence of secret societies, some of which, under the denomination of freemasons, were at first founded for charitable purposes, and others secretly pursued political objects, have induced some governments to view them with strict attention. The emperor has, from these considerations, been led to erect a firm bulwark against every thing which might be injurious to the empire, especially at a time when so many states afford sad examples of the ruinous consequences of the philosophical subtleties now in vogue."
Decoudray's expedition. During the contest between Spain and her South American provinces, the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico maintained their relations with the parent state, not however without some revolutionary movements. In the year 1822, one Decoudray, a Swiss adventurer, came to New York, and in conjunction with Baptist Irvine and others, formed the plan of revolutionizing Porto Rico; and setting up an independent government of which they were to be the chiefs. To effect this object, they fitted out a small armament, and eluding the vigilance of the custom-house officers, proceeded to St. Bartholomews, the place of their rendezvous, expecting to draw to their standard the disaffected of Porto Rico, and with them and the slaves of the island to accomplish their purpose. The island at this time contained a free population of about 90,000, and 100,000 slaves. It was a place of considerable strength, and in the neighborhood of Cuba, from whence a force adequate to support the Spanish authorities might readily be obtained. The rigor of the Spanish colonial system had been less felt in these islands than on the neighboring continent; they had been indulged with some commercial privileges denied to other colonies; and felt little disposition to put their existence at hazard by a revolt. Their weakness and insular situation forbid any prospect of success. Decoudray's armament was too feeble
He and his
and ill-concerted to afford any encouragement. deluded followers were captured on their passage from St. Bartholomews, and doomed to suffer the consequences of their folly..
Second session of the seventeenth congress. The second session of the seventeenth congress commenced on the second of December, 1822. A quorum of both houses assembled on that day, and the customary message was received on the next. It presented a promising aspect of the foreign and domestic affairs of the nation. It contained nothing of any great interest because nothing had happened. It recommended no important measure, because none was deemed necessary. The session, terminating on the third of March, was necessarily a short one. Few acts of general interest were passed. The government in all its departments and relations was proceeding in a prosperous train. No great political question was agitated in congress, or called forth the energies of that body.
Vice president's accounts. In virtue of a law of the last session, providing that no payments should be made to any public officer, whose accounts were unsettled, and who appeared to be in arrear on the treasury books, the payment of the vice president's salary was suspended. That officer, as governor of the state of New York in the late war, was required to call out large portions of the militia to defend the city, and the extensive inland frontier of the state. From the deranged situation of the national finances, he was frequently obliged to provide for their pay and subsistence on his private responsibility. He had executed the arduous duties attached to his military character as captain general of the militia of the state, and commandant of the military district of New York, with great zeal and fidelity. He had incurred responsibilities for the public service of more than a million of dollars, to the detriment of his private credit. The reimbursements from the national treasury were not as soon as was expected, or in season to meet his engagements. This produced embarrassment and ruin in his private affairs. In some instances the subordinate agents misapplied the money; in others the proper vouchers were not taken; so that in rendering his account to the treasury, on the principles on which its officers were authorized to settle them, he appeared a large defaulter. The comptroller instituted a suit against him in the circuit court, in which he made it appear that so far from being in arrears to the government, he was in advance the sum of
$136,799.97. A committee of the house of representatives, to whom the peculiar circumstances of his case were referred, reported facts highly honorable to that officer. They say that "he had performed all that was required, and more than was promised or expected. The protection of the city of New York, and the successful issue of the campaign of 1814 on the frontier, was owing in a great measure to his exertions."
The committee reported, that he ought to be allowed interest on his advances until they were reimbursed, and a commission on all moneys that passed through his hands. That he ought to be indemnified for losses incurred in consequence of the government's failing to reimburse the moneys borrowed by him, at the stipulated time; and that he ought not to be responsible for losses incurred by the fraud or failure of his sub-agents. The committee reported a bill, which passed with little opposition, directing the accounting officers of the treasury to settle his account upon these principles, and suspending as to him the operation of the law of the last session, which prevented the payment of his salary. On a final adjustment of his accounts on the principles reported by the committee, a balance of $35,190 was found in his favor.