The New International Encyclopædia/Creole Case, The

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The New International Encyclopædia
Creole Case, The
Edition of 1905. See also Creole case on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

CREOLE CASE, The. An incident in American history, which caused some friction between the governments of the United States and Great Britain and was the occasion of an animated debate between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery elements in Congress. In 1841, 19 of the 135 slaves on board the American brig Creole revolted, while being transported coastwise between Hampton Roads and New Orleans, and securing control, after killing the captain and wounding several others, directed the vessel to Nassau, New Providence, where all those who had not been directly concerned in the revolt were immediately liberated by the British authorities, the others being held for trial on a charge of murder, in the local courts. Daniel Webster, who was then Secretary of State, demanded the return of the slaves, on the ground that they were legally property and were on American soil and under the jurisdiction of the United States, so long as they were under the American flag, even when on board a ship. They were never returned, however, by the British Government. The incident caused J. R. Giddings (q.v.) to offer a series of resolutions in the House of Representatives, on March 21, 1842, declaring that slavery could exist only by positive law of the separate States; that these States had delegated no control over slavery to the Federal Government, which alone had jurisdiction on the high seas, and, therefore, that slaves on the high seas became free, and the coastwise slave trade was unconstitutional. The House passed a resolution of censure, and Giddings immediately resigned, but was triumphantly reëlected. His resolutions expressed the basis of one phase of the constitutional anti-slavery agitation. They are given in full in Giddings's History of the Rebellion (New York, 1864). The statute of March 2, 1807, regulating the coastwise slave trade, is in 2 U. S. Statutes at Large 426. See Slavery.