James Monroe

Special Message

February 23, 1823

To the Senate of the United States:

By a resolution of the 27th of December last the President of the United States was requested to communicate to the Senate such information as he might possess respecting the political state of the island of St. Domingo; whether the Government thereof was claimed by any European nation, what our commercial relations with the Government of the island were, and whether any further commercial relations with that Government would be consistent with the interest and safety of the United States.

From the import of the resolution it is inferred that the Senate were fully aware of the delicate and interesting nature of the subject embraced by it in all its branches. The call supposes something peculiar in the nature of the Government of that island and in the character of its population, to which attention is due. Impressed always with an anxious desire to meet every call of either House for information, I most willingly comply in this instance and with a view to the particular circumstances alluded to.

in adverting to the political state of St. Domingo I have to observe that the whole island is now united under one Government, under a constitution which retains the sovereignty in the hands of the people of color, and with provisions which prohibit the employment in the Government of all white persons who have emigrated there since 1816, or who may hereafter emigrate there, and which prohibit also the acquisition by such persons of the right of citizenship or to real estate in the island. In the exercise of this sovereignty the Government has not been molested by any European power. No invasion of the island has been made or attempted by any power. It is, however, understood that the relations between the Government of France and the island have not been adjusted, that its independence has not been recognized by France, nor has peace been formally established between the parties.

The establishment of a Government of people of color in the island on the principles above stated evinces distinctly the idea of a separate interest and a distrust of other nations. Had that jealousy been confined to the inhabitants of the parent country it would have been less an object of attention; but by extending it to the inhabitants of other countries with whom no difference ever existed the policy assumes a character which does not admit of a like explanation. To what extent that spirit may be indulged or to what purposes applied our experience has yet been too limited to enable us to form a just estimate. These are inquiries more peculiarly interesting to the neighboring islands. They nevertheless deserve the attention of the United States.

Between the United States and the island a commercial intercourse exists, and it will continue to be the object of this Government to promote it. Our commerce there has been subjected to higher duties than have been imposed on like articles from some other nations. It has nevertheless been extensive, proceeding from the wants of the respective parties and the enterprise of our citizens. Of this discrimination to our injury we had a right to complain and have complained. It is expected that our commercial intercourse with the island will be placed on the footing of the most favored nation. No preference is sought in our favor, nor ought any to be given to others. Regarding the high interest of our happy Union and looking to every circumstance which may by any possibility affect the tranquillity of any part, however remotely, and guarding against such injury by suitable precautions, it is the duty of this Government to promote by all the means in its power and by a fair and honorable policy the best interest of every other part, and thereby of the whole. Feeling profoundly the force of this obligation, I shall continue to exert with unwearied zeal my best faculties to give it effect.


James Monroe, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207653

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