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Ned Myers by James Fenimore Cooper

Part 5 out of 5

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account, I found that my recollection was just, so far as this--a
Lieutenant-Colonel Meyers was reported as wounded and taken prisoner. I
then recollected to have been present at a conversation between
Major-General Lewis and Major Baker, his adjutant-general, shortly after
the battle, in which the question arose whether the same shot had killed
Colonel Meyers that killed his horse. General Lewis thought not; Major
Baker thought it had. On my referring to the official account as reporting
this gentleman to have been only _wounded_, I was told it was a
mistake, he having been _killed_. Now for the probabilities. Both Ned
and his sister understand that their father was slain in battle, about
this time. Ned thought this occurred at Waterloo, but the sister thinks
not. Neither knew anything of the object of my inquiry. The sister says
letters were received from _Quebec_ in relation to the father's
personal effects. It would be a strange thing, if Ned had actually found
his own father's body on the field, in this extraordinary manner! I
pretend not to say it is so; but it must be allowed it looks very much
like it. The lady may have been a wife, married between the years 1796 and
1813, when Mr. Meyers had got higher rank. This occurrence was related by
Ned without the slightest notion of the inference that I have here
drawn.--Editor.

[8]: It is supposed that Capt. Deacon died, a few years since, in
consequence of an injury he received on board the Growler, this night. A
shot struck her main-boom, within a short distance of one of his ears, and
he ever after complained of its effects. At his death this side of his
head was much swollen and affected.--Editor.

[9]: By this, Ned means six men had to subsist on the usual allowance of
four men; a distinction that was made between men on duty and men off.
Prisoners, too, are commonly allowed to help themselves in a variety of
ways.--Editor.

[10]: The name of this young officer was King. He is now dead, having been
lost in the Lynx, Lt. Madison.--Editor.

[11]: If this be true, this could hardly have been a court, but must have
been a mere investigation; as Sir John Borlase Warren was
commander-in-chief, and would scarcely sit in a court of his own
ordering.--Editor.

[12]: Ned means Loto, probably.--Editor.

[13]: Ned might have added "few duchesses." The ambassadors' bags in
Europe, might ten many a tale of _foulards_, &c., sent from one court
to another. The writer believes that the higher class of American
gentlemen and ladies smuggle less than those of any other country. It
should be remembered, too, that no seaman goes in a smuggler, thut is not
sent by traders ashore.--Editor.

[14]: A friend, who was then American Consul at Gibraltar, and an old navy
officer, tells me Ned is mistaken as to the nature of the anchorage. The
ship was a little too far out for the best holding ground. The same friend
adds that the character of this gale is not at all overcharged, the
vessels actually lost, including small craft of every description,
amounting to the every way extraordinary number of just three hundred and
sixty-five.--Editor.

[15]: This is the reasoning of Ned. I have always looked upon the American
law as erroneous in principle, and too severe in its penalties. Erroneous
in principle, as piracy is a crime against the law of nations, and it is
not legal for any one community to widen, or narrow, the action of
international law. It is peculiarly the policy of this country, rigidly to
observe this principle, since she has so many interests dependent on its
existence. The punishment of death is too severe, when we consider that
nabobs are among us, who laid the foundations of their wealth, as slaving
_merchants_, when slaving _was_ legal. Sudden mutations in morals,
are not to be made by a dash of the pen; and even public sentiment can
hardly be made to consider slaving much of a crime, in a slave-holding
community. But, even the punishment of death might be inflicted, without
arrogating to Congress a power to say what is, and what is not, piracy.

It will probably be said, the error is merely one of language; the
jurisdiction being clearly legal. Is this true? Can Congress, legally or
constitutionally, legislate for American citizens, when undeniably within
the jurisdiction of foreign states? Admit this as a principle, and what is
to prevent Congress from punishing acts, that it may be the policy of
foreign countries to exact from even casual residents. If Congress can
punish me, as a pirate, for slaving under a foreign flag, and in foreign
countries, it can punish me for carrying arms against all American allies;
and yet military service may be exacted of even an American citizen,
resident in a foreign state, under particular circumstances. The same
difficulty, in principle, may be extended to the whole catalogue of legal
crime.

Congress exists only for specified purposes. It can _punish_ piracy,
but it cannot declare what shall, or shall not, be piracy; as this would
be invading the authority of international law. Under the general power to
pass laws, that are necessary to carry out the system, it can derive no
authority; since there can be no legal necessity for any such double
legislation, under the comity of nations. Suppose, for instance, England
should legalize slaving, again. Could the United States claim the American
citizen, who had engaged in slaving, under the English flag, and from a
British port, under the renowned Ashburton treaty? Would England give such
a man up? No more than she will now give up the slaves that run from the
American vessel, which is driven in by stress of weather. One of the vices
of philanthropy is to overreach its own policy, by losing sight of all
collateral principles and interests.--Editor.

[16]: Ned's pronunciation.

[17]: I find, in looking over his papers and accounts, that Ned,
exclusively of all the prison-ships, transports, and vessels in which he
made passages, has belonged regularly to seventy-two different crafts! In
some of these vessels he made many voyages, In the Sterling, he made
several passages with the writer; besides four European voyages, at a
later day. He made four voyages to Havre in the Erie, which counts as only
one vessel, in the above list. He was three voyages to London, in the
Washington, &c. &c. &c.; and often made two voyages in the same ship. I am
of opinion that Ned's calculation of his having been twenty-five years out
of sight of land is very probably true. He must have _sailed, in all
ways_, in near a hundred different craft.--Editor.

[18]: Pronounced, Wheaton--Editor.

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