Page images

flag-staff [before the consulate] was chopped down six feet from the ground, and left reclining on the terrace."1 American citizens once more became the prize of manstealers. Colonel Humphreys, now at home in retirement, came out in an address to the public, calling again for united action, saying: "Americans of the United States, your fellow-citizens are in fetters! Can there be but one feeling? Where are the gallant remnants of the race who fought for freedom? Where the glorious heirs of their patriotism? Will there never be a truce between political parties? Or must it forever be the fate of FREE STATES, that the soft voice of union should be drowned in the hoarse clamor of discord? No! Let every friend of blessed humanity and sacred freedom entertain a better hope and confidence."2 Colonel Humphreys was not a statesman only; he was known as poet also. And in this character he made another appeal. In a poem on "The Future Glory of the United States," he breaks forth into indignant condemnation of slavery, which deserves commemoration, and, whatever may be the merits of its verse, should not be omitted here.

"Teach me curst slavery's cruel woes to paint,

Beneath whose weight our captured freemen faint!

[ocr errors]

Where am I? Heavens! what mean these dolorous cries?
And what these horrid scenes that round me rise?
Heard ye the groans, those messengers of pain?
Heard ye the clanking of the captive's chain?
Heard ye your freeborn sons their fate deplore,
Pale in their chains and laboring at the oar?
Saw ye the dungeon, in whose blackest cell,
That house of woe, your friends, your children, dwell?
Or saw ye those who dread the torturing hour,
Crushed by the rigors of a tyrant's power?

1 Lyman's Diplomacy, Vol. II. p. 384.

2 Miscellaneous Works of David Humphreys, p. 75.

Saw ye the shrinking slave, the uplifted lash,
The frowning butcher, and the reddening gash?
Saw ye the fresh blood, where it bubbling broke
From purple scars, beneath the grinding stroke?
Saw ye the naked limbs writhed to and fro,
In wild contortions of convulsing woe?

Felt ye the blood, with pangs alternate rolled,
Thrill through your veins and freeze with deathlike cold,
Or fire, as down the tear of pity stole,

Your manly breasts, and harrow up the soul?"1

The people and Government responded. And here commenced those early deeds by which our navy became known in Europe. Through a reverse of shipwreck rather than war, the frigate Philadelphia fell into the hands of the Tripolitans. A daring act A daring act of Decatur burned it under the guns of the enemy. Other feats of hardihood ensued. A romantic expedition by General Eaton, from Alexandria, in Egypt, across the Desert of Libya, captured Derne. Three several times Tripoli was attacked, and, at last, on the 4th of June, 1805, entered into a treaty by which the freedom of three hundred American slaves was secured, on the payment of sixty thousand dollars; and it was provided, that, in the event of future war between the two countries, prisoners should not be reduced to slavery, but should be exchanged rank for rank, and if there were any deficiency on either side, it should be made up at the rate of five hundred Spanish dollars for each captain, three hundred dollars for each mate and supercargo, and one hundred dollars for each seaman.2 Thus did our country, after successes not without what is called the glory of arms, again purchase with money the emancipation of white citizens.

1 Miscellaneous Works of David Humphreys, pp. 52, 53.

2 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. VIII. p. 214. Lyman's Diplo macy, Vol. II. p. 388.

The power of Tripoli was inconsiderable. That of Algiers was more formidable. It is not a little curious that the largest ship of this slave-trading state was the Crescent, of thirty-four guns, built in New Hampshire; 1, though it is hardly to the credit of our sister State that the Algerine power derived such important support from her. The lawlessness of the corsair broke forth again in the seizure of the brig Edwin, of Salem, and the enslavement of her crew. The energies of the country were at this time enlisted in war with Great Britain; but even amidst the anxieties of this important contest was heard the voice of these captives, awakening a corresponding sentiment throughout the land, until the Government was prompted to their release. Through Mr. Noah, recently appointed consul at Tunis, it offered to purchase their freedom at three thousand dollars a head. The answer of the Dey, repeated on several occasions, was, that "not for two millions of dollars would he sell his American slaves." 3 The timely treaty of Ghent, establishing peace with Great Britain, left us at liberty to deal with this enslaver of our countrymen. At once a naval force was despatched to the Mediterranean, under approved officers, Commodores Bainbridge and Decatur. The rapidity of their movements and their striking success had the desired effect. In December, 1816, a treaty was extorted from the Dey of Algiers, by which, after abandoning all claim to tribute in any form, he delivered his American captives, ten in number, without ransom, and stipulated that hereafter no Americans should be made slaves or forced to hard

1 History of the War between the United States and Tripoli, p. 88. 2 Noah's Travels, pp. 69, 70.

3 Ibid., p. 144. National Intelligencer, March 7, 1815.

labor, and, still further, that "any Christians whatsoever, captives in Algiers," making their escape, and taking refuge on board an American ship of war, should be safe from all requisition or reclamation.1

Decatur walked his deck with impatient earnestness, awaiting the promised signature of the treaty. "Is the treaty signed?" he cried to the captain of the port and the Swedish consul, as they reached the Guerrière with a white flag of truce. "It is," replied the Swede; and the treaty was placed in the hands of the brave commander. "Are the prisoners in the boat?" "They are." "Every one of them?" "Every one, Sir." The captive Americans now came forward to greet and bless their deliverer.2 Here, on a smaller scale, was the same scene which had given such satisfaction to the Emperor Charles the Fifth at Tunis. Surely this moment, when he looked upon emancipated fellow-countrymen and thought how much he had contributed to overthrow the relentless system of bondage under which they had groaned, must have been one of the sweetest in the life of our hardy son of the sea. But should I not say, even here, that there is now a citizen of Massachusetts, who, without army or navy, by a simple act of self-renunciation, has given freedom to a larger number of Christian American slaves than was liberated by the sword of Decatur ? Of course I refer to Mr. Palfrey.

Not by money, but by arms, was emancipation this time secured. The country was grateful for the result,though the poor freedmen, engulfed in unknown wastes of ocean, on their glad passage home, were never able

[ocr errors]

1 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. VIII. p. 224. Lyman's Diplomacy, Vol. II. p. 376.

2 Mackenzie's Life of Decatur, p. 268.



to mingle joys with their fellow-citizens. They were on board the Épervier, of which no trace ever appeared. Nor did the people feel the melancholy mockery of the National Government, which, having weakly declared that it was "not in any sense founded on the Christian religion," now expressly confined the protecting power of its flag to fugitive "Christians, captives in Algiers," leaving slaves of another faith, escaping even from Algiers, to be snatched as between the horns of the altar and returned to continued horrors.


THE success of American arms was followed by a more signal triumph of Great Britain, acting generously in behalf of all the Christian powers. Her expedition was debated, perhaps prompted, in the Congress of Vienna, where, after the overthrow of Napoleon, the brilliant representatives of European nations, with the monarchs of Austria, Prussia, and Russia in attendance, considered how to adjust the disordered balance of empire, and to remedy evils through joint action. Among many high concerns was the project of a crusade against the Barbary States, to accomplish the complete abolition of Christian slavery. For this purpose, it was proposed to form "a holy league," which was earnestly enforced by a memoir from Sir Sidney Smith,1 the same who foiled Napoleon at Acre, and at this time president of an association called the "Knights Liberators of the

1 Mémoire sur la Nécessité et les Moyens de faire cesser les Pirateries des États Barbaresques. Reçu, considéré, et adopté à Paris en Septembre, à Turin le 14 Octobre, 1814, à Vienne durant le Congrès. Par W. Sidney Smith. See Quarterly Review, Vol. XV. p. 139, where this is noticed. Schoell, Histoire des Traités de Paix, Tom. XI. p. 402.

« PreviousContinue »