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Page 469, 10th line from bottom, read Corcyra for Epidamnus.
were willing also to refer the case to the oracle at Delphi.”
IN THE CASE OF ALEXANDER MCLEOD.1
DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 1841.
[The business before the Senate being the motion of Mr. Rives to refer so much of the President's Message as relates to our foreign affairs to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Choate spoke as follows:]
I REGRET to be obliged to consume a moment of the crowded time of the senate in a discussion which can produce no practical results. But as the subject has been forced upon
the friends of the Secretary of State and of the Administration, it possesses a good deal of interest intrinsically, and, therefore, holding a place upon the Committee of Foreign Relations, to whom it perhaps appropriately belongs, I venture to submit a few thoughts upon it less maturely considered than I could wish. I fear I can add little to the splendid and masterly speech of the Senator from Virginia. [Mr. Rives.]
I confess that when I read, a few days since, the letter of the Secretary of State to Mr. Fox, on which the Senator from Pennsylvania (Mr. Buchanan) has commented, it seemed to me written with much ability, and that it ought to and would satisfy the judgment and feelings of the whole American people. The views it presented I thought sound, clear, and some of them new; the manner, not an unimportant consideration, good; frank, decided, not rude, not boisterous, not timid; and the whole tone, temper, and spirit elevated, national, American; worthy of the man, the cause, and the country. The objections taken to it in this debate seemed to me to be its essential
1 A brief account of this case will be found in Vol. I. p. 49.
merits. By concealing just what he did, and by denying just what he did, he had gone far, I thought, to withdraw this controversy about The Caroline from the false position it rested upon, and to place it on such grounds that it may be adjusted with ease and honor, or, if we must fight, that we may carry into battle the approbation of our own consciences, and the supports of a just pride.
So the letter struck my mind. Other gentlemen, or, at least, one other, regard it differently. And, in the first place, a doubt is intimated by the distinguished Senator from Pennsylvania, whether the concession of the Secretary, that a person in the asserted predicament of McLeod is entitled to immunity, assumes an accurate proposition of international law. He argues that it does not; and he holds the opinion that we may well enough hang that person for robbery and murder; that we may do this in entire conformity with the received ameliorated codes of international law of the nineteenth century, and without justly bringing on ourselves a murmur of disapprobation from any of the families of man, or any individual of any family. Sir, let us pause for a moment on this great question of nations.
What is the concession of the Secretary of State ? Why, only and exactly this : that a soldier or sailor de facto such
actually engaged in a military or naval enterprise of force, under the authority, in obedience to the command, of his government, and keeping himself within the scope of that authority, is not guilty, as the law of nations is administered to-day, of a crime against the municipal code of the country upon which he thus helps to carry on war; that he is not punishable as for such crime by that country; and that the responsibility rests upon his own government alone to answer, as nations answer for their crimes to their equals. That is the concession. He does not deal at all with the case of a soldier straggling away from his colors to commit a solitary and separate murder. He does not deal with a case of alleged excess of authority. He supposes him to obey the precise directions of his government, and, so doing, he declares him clothed with a personal immunity
It has been said in some of the discussions of this subject, although not here, that McLeod left The Caroline after the