Special Message

March 15, 1854

To the House of Representatives:

In compliance with the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 10th instant, I herewith transmit a report of the Secretary of State, containing all the information received at the Department in relation to the seizure of the Black Warrior at Havana on the 28th ultimo.

There have been in the course of a few years past many other instances of aggression upon our commerce, violations of the rights of American citizens, and insults to the national flag by the Spanish authorities in Cuba, and all attempts to obtain redress have led to protracted, and as yet fruitless, negotiations.

The documents in these cases are voluminous, and when prepared will be sent to Congress.

Those now transmitted relate exclusively to the seizure of the Black Warrior , and present so clear a case of wrong that it would be reasonable to expect full indemnity therefor as soon as this unjustifiable and offensive conduct shall be made known to Her Catholic Majesty's Government; but similar expectations in other cases have not been realized.

The offending party is at our doors with large powers for aggression, but none, it is alleged, for reparation. The source of redress is in another hemisphere, and the answers to our just complaints made to the home Government are but the repetition of excuses rendered by inferior officials to their superiors in reply to representations of misconduct. The peculiar situation of the parties has undoubtedly much aggravated the annoyances and injuries which our citizens have suffered from the Cuban authorities, and Spain does not seem to appreciate to its full extent her responsibility for the conduct of these authorities. In giving very extraordinary powers to them she owes it to justice and to her friendly relations with this Government to guard with great vigilance against the exorbitant exercise of these powers, and in case of injuries to provide for prompt redress.

I have already taken measures to present to the Government of Spain the wanton injury of the Cuban authorities in the detention and seizure of the Black Warrior, and to demand immediate indemnity for the injury which has thereby resulted to our citizens.

In view of the position of the island of Cuba, its proximity to our coast, the relations which it must ever bear to our commercial and other interests, it is vain to expect that a series of unfriendly acts infringing our commercial rights and the adoption of a policy threatening the honor and security of these States can long consist with peaceful relations.

In case the measures taken for amicable adjustment of our difficulties with Spain should, unfortunately, fail, I shall not hesitate to use the authority and means which Congress may grant to insure the observance of our just rights, to obtain redress for injuries received, and to vindicate the honor of our flag.

In anticipation of that contingency, which I earnestly hope may not arise, I suggest to Congress the propriety of adopting such provisional measures as the exigency may seem to demand.


Franklin Pierce, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/201930

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives