Millard Fillmore photo

Special Message

June 14, 1852

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I transmit herewith, for your consideration, a report from the Secretary of State, accompanied by a communication from His Excellency Senor Don A. Calderon de la Bares, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Her Catholic Majesty, claiming indemnity for those Spanish subjects in New Orleans who sustained injury from the unlawful violence of the mob in that city consequent upon hearing the news of the execution of those persons who unlawfully invaded Cuba in August, 1851. My own views of the national liability upon this subject were expressed in the note of the Secretary of State to Mr. Calderon of the 13th November, 1851, and I do not understand that Her Catholic Majesty's minister controverts the correctness of the position there taken. He, however, insists that the thirteenth article of the treaty of 1795 promises indemnity for such injuries sustained within one year after the commencement of war between the two nations, and although he admits this is not within the letter of the treaty, yet he conceives that, as between two friendly nations, it is within the spirit of it.

This view of the case is at his request submitted for your consideration, but whether you may deem it correct or not, there is, perhaps, one ground upon which this indemnity, which can not be large in amount, may be granted without establishing a dangerous precedent, and the granting of which would commend itself to the generous feelings of the entire country, and that is this: The Queen of Spain, with a magnanimity worthy of all commendation, in a case where we had no legal right to solicit the favor, granted a free pardon to all the persons who had so unjustifiably invaded her dominions and murdered her subjects in Cuba, in violation of her own laws as well as those of the United States and the public law of nations. Such an act of mercy, which restored many misguided and unfortunate youth of this country to their parents and friends, seems to me to merit some corresponding act of magnanimity and generosity on the part of the Government of this country, and I think that there can be none more appropriate than to grant an indemnity to those Spanish subjects who were resident among us and who suffered by the violence of the mob, not on account of any fault which they themselves had committed, but because they were the subjects of the Queen of Spain. Such an act would tend to confirm that friendship which has so long existed between the two nations and to perpetuate it as a blessing to both, and I therefore recommend it to your favorable consideration.


Millard Fillmore, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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