Mr. Seward to Mr. Koerner.
Sir:By the 9th article of the treaty of Washington of the 9th of August, 1842, between the United States and Great Britain, it is stipulated that the parties will unite in all becoming representations and remonstrances with any and all powers within whose dominions such markets [for African negroes] are allowed to exist, and that they will urge upon all such powers the propriety and duty of closing such markets effectually at once and forever.
Spain is believed to be the only Christian state into whose dominions African negroes are now introduced as slaves. She has a treaty with Great Britain stipulating for the suppression of that traffic. The instrument was concluded at a time and under circumstances which, as it seems to us, imposed a peculiar weight of moral obligation on Spain to see that her stipulations were carried into full effect. It is understood, however, that the just expectations of the British government in that respect have been signally disappointed. This has no doubt been mostly owing to the fact that a great part of the public revenue of Spain has hitherto been derived from Cuba, the prosperity of which island has in some quarters been erroneously supposed to depend upon a continued supply of imported slave labor. This is believed to be the source of the disregard of Cuban slave-dealers of the humane policy of the home government, and the alleged inefficiency at times of the colonial authorities.
We have no treaty with Spain on the subject of the slave trade; but, as the laws of the United States characterized it as piracy long before our treaty with Great Britain above referred to, we think ourselves entitled to consider that trade an offence against public law, so far as to warrant our faithful compliance with the stipulation contained in that treaty. Herewith I transmit a copy of an informal note on this subject of the 4th instant addressed to me by Lord Lyons, and of the papers to which it refers. From these it appears that though the number of Africans introduced into Cuba is diminishing, yet that the municipal laws in force there require amendment before a stoppage of the traffic can be expected. The peculiar relations of Great Britain to Spain with reference to this topic may justify to the full extent the text of the note of Sir John Crampton to the Marquis of Miraflores. The relations of the United [Page 8] States to Spain, however, are of a different character, but the President authorizes and directs you to address a communication in general terms to the Spanish minister for foreign affairs, setting forth the treaty stipulations between the United States and Great Britain on this subject, and stating that it would afford the utmost satisfaction in this -country if any obstacles existing in Cuba to the complete suppression of the African slave trade should be removed.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Gustavus Koerner, Esq., &c., &c., &c., Madrid.