The Right of Search and the Slave Trade in Anglo-American Relations, 1814-1862

The Right of Search and the Slave Trade in Anglo-American Relations, 1814-1862

The Right of Search and the Slave Trade in Anglo-American Relations, 1814-1862

The Right of Search and the Slave Trade in Anglo-American Relations, 1814-1862

Excerpt

In the history of the long debates between Great Britain and the United States over the freedom of the seas, the chapters on the suppression of the African slave trade are curiously instructive. The relation of unfortunate negroes to the principles of maritime law is not immediately obvious; yet for half a century between the Treaty of Ghent and the Civil War, the measures to be concerted by the two countries for the suppression of the trade were the basis of elaborate and often vigorous discussion of the rights of commerce at sea.

At the close of the Napoleonic wars the slave trade, already prohibited by Great Britain and the United States, was still conducted on a scale great enough to make further action necessary. The extent of an illicit traffic is not precisely determinable since its operations are secret; but the supply of negro labor to tropical plantations was so profitable a business that not only were the ships and capital of Spain, Portugal, and later Brazil extensively engaged; to a less extent and in varying degree the maritime powers, Great Britain, the United States, and France were also involved. British and--after 1820--American cruisers were sent to the west coast of Africa; but their jurisdiction extended only over their own merchant vessels, except when special treaties had been negotiated with other nations. The check on the slave trade was thus very slight, and the British government was convinced that a far more comprehensive system of international supervision was necessary. What form this supervision should take; whether a maritime police might be commissioned with a right of search for slavers; to . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.